Re: "They don't need no stinkin' documentation..."

Subject: Re: "They don't need no stinkin' documentation..."
From: Bruce Byfield <bbyfield -at- axionet -dot- com>
To: "TECHWR-L" <techwr-l -at- lists -dot- raycomm -dot- com>
Date: Mon, 29 Oct 2001 20:26:52 -0800

Andrew Plato wrote:

It isn't a stawman argument and it isn't a balencing act. Its a matter of
priorities. Too many writers put atheistics and format ahead of substance.
Yes, it is preferable to have documentation that looks nice, but never at
the expense of the information.

It's a straw man because the Content Is King argument always frames the discussion as if design simply meant making everything pretty. Given Dick's contributions to the list over the year, I feel reasonably certain that he is talking about design that enhances readability and perhaps assists the client with corporate branding. Certainly, that's what I mean when I talk about design.

Yes, there are people who fiddle with fonts out of an obsession with novelty, or simply out of a wish to avoid serious work like learning what they are writing about. But that's not design - that's shirking.

As for priorities, I think I'll evoke the Universal Panacea for this list: it depends on the audience. If you're writing for stone techies, then you can get away with poor design. You're writing for a highly motivated audience who will expend the effort needed to overcome your shortcomings. I mean, people who will endure man pages will endure anything :-)

However, if you're writing for more casual users, then design could be the difference between them reading the documentation and walking away from all your hard work. It doesn't matter how good your content is if people can't or won't use it.

And, for that matter, even though stone techies are more likely to overlook bad design, that doesn't mean they like it. If the design lets them get their information and get on with whatever they're doing, they're as pleased as anyone. After all, just because you can lift 500 pounds doesn't mean that you want to do so a dozen times a day.

Bruce Byfield 604.421.7177 bbyfield -at- axionet -dot- com

"What will I say when my children ask me,
'Where were you flying on that day?'
With trembling voice, I gave the order
To the bombadier of Enola Gay."
-Utah Phillips, "Enola Gay"

Announcing new options for IPCC 01, October 24-27 in Santa Fe,
New Mexico: attend the entire event or select a single day. For details and online registration, visit

Your monthly sponsorship message here reaches more than
5000 technical writers, providing 2,500,000+ monthly impressions.
Contact Eric (ejray -at- raycomm -dot- com) for details and availability.

You are currently subscribed to techwr-l as: archive -at- raycomm -dot- com
To unsubscribe send a blank email to leave-techwr-l-obscured -at- lists -dot- raycomm -dot- com
Send administrative questions to ejray -at- raycomm -dot- com -dot- Visit for more resources and info.


Re: "They don't need no stinkin' documentation...": From: Andrew Plato

Previous by Author: Re: "They don't need no stinkin' documentation..."
Next by Author: Re: "They don't need no stinkin' documentation..."
Previous by Thread: Re: "They don't need no stinkin' documentation..."
Next by Thread: Re: "They don't need no stinkin' documentation..."

What this post helpful? Share it with friends and colleagues:

Sponsored Ads