RE: Survey: "Screen shots"

Subject: RE: Survey: "Screen shots"
From: Michele Marques <MarquesM -at- autros -dot- com>
To: "TECHWR-L" <techwr-l -at- lists -dot- raycomm -dot- com>
Date: Tue, 11 Dec 2001 12:50:06 -0500

KMcLauchlan -at- chrysalis-its -dot- com asks:

> 1) Do you create your own "fake" screen-caps with
> a vector-drawing tool?

Only if I have to complete the screen capture before the screen exists
(e.g., for design documents or other documents that need to be created in

> 2) Can you think of any reasons not to do so, from
> the user's perspective?

Yes, see #3.

> 3) Would I be wrong in assuming that cosmetic aspects
> of windows and dialog boxes are not that important,
> and that as long as the text is there and readable,
> and the surrounding elements are similar to the
> originals, then that should be "good enough"?

It depends on your users. Some users are very confused by the slightest
difference or focus on the differences. These users feel reassured by seeing
the same screen in the manual that they expect to see on their screen. In
addition, they may wonder if your screen captures are from a different
version of the product.

> Would anyone care to suggest disadvantages to this approach?

Well, no matter how many little elements you have saved, I think it would
still be much quicker to take screen captures of the actual product -
especially if you have to bring up the screen anyway to compare. As it is
not that hard to get legible screen captures, I can't imagine that it is
worth the extra time for the small bit of extra quality - when I am already
forced to make decisions as to where to cut corners in order to meet

You might think that it's not an issue to spend five minutes per screen
capture (that assumes that you have all the elements created and are just
dragging them around and maybe changing some of the content of text labels).
But if you have to update or create 100 screens for a release, then that is
500 minutes (or over 8 hours) extra time that is spent on screen captures.
If you have more screens or multiple releases/new products per year, then
the numbers continue to add up.

> Do you think it likely that a user would be confused or
> offended or distracted if the parts that I consider cosmetic
> are not exact matches for what they see onscreen?

Yes. They will likely wonder why the screen doesn't match exactly. Whether
the user becomes distracted and/or confused depends on your audience. I have
users who would become confused by these differences; you might not.

This of course leads to the question as to why you are spending the extra
time to increase part of the quality of your screen captures (legibility) at
the cost of other quality (reproduction of the user's experience).

Michele Marques, Technical Communicator
AUTROS Healthcare Solutions, Inc.
marquesm -at- autros -dot- com <mailto:marquesm -at- autros -dot- com>

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