Re: pictures, words, info, glyphs, symbols, thoughts

Subject: Re: pictures, words, info, glyphs, symbols, thoughts
From: "Groenewege, mevr. M." <m -dot- groenewege -at- lvnl -dot- nl>
To: "TECHWR-L" <techwr-l -at- lists -dot- raycomm -dot- com>
Date: Wed, 17 Jul 2002 10:41:41 +0200

Bill Swallow wrote: <<Visual information - if designed correctly (simple
and direct), can be processed by the human mind extremely quickly.>>

Two weeks ago, I read an interview with Piet Westendorp, who has performed
some extensive research into visual communication. The conclusions of his
PhD research on effectiveness of text, graphics and animations in
instructions are quite interesting in the light of this discussion. Here's a
translation of some parts of the interview:

"For short term learning, text is most efficient. But if you want to achieve
that the user also remembers how a product works after a longer period of
time, then graphics, or even better, animations should be used. According to
Westendorp, the slower processing of graphic information is caused by the
fact that our brain first translates the images to text. This takes extra


(Westendorp and) students of the Technical University of Delft used a phone
with extensive possibilities to test which type of instruction worked best.
It turned out that a text-only manual got people operating the phone
fastest. This was especially true for the simple features of the phone. With
graphic instructions, it took the test persons longer to understand the


When you look at what the test persons remembered after a while, the group
that learned fastest, also forgot most of the instructions. Those persons
that use animation-based instruction remembered most. That's why it's hard
to state which method is most effective."

A google on "Piet Westendorp" gives a long list of interesting sites and
articles, many of them in English.

Have a nice day,

Maaike Groenewege
Technical writer
Air traffic control the Netherlands (always written with an article as far
as I know. Its Dutch name, Nederland (Netherland) is singular without an

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