Re: Typographical treatment of GUI components

Subject: Re: Typographical treatment of GUI components
From: Dick Margulis <margulis -at- fiam -dot- net>
To: "TECHWR-L" <techwr-l -at- lists -dot- raycomm -dot- com>
Date: Tue, 15 Jul 2003 07:10:19 -0400

Stephen Arrants wrote:

> "Dick Margulis" <margulis -at- fiam -dot- net> writes:
>>Michael West wrote:
>>>Maybe I'd get used to it if I spent enough time
>>>in it -- but I really shouldn't have to, should I?
>>Well, it's radical, I'll admit. But I'm basing it on Tufte's notion of
>>least perceptible difference, the minimalism of which appeals to me.
> But does it appeal to your users? Does the "minimalism" make it easier or
> harder
> for them to understand the material?
> It really doesn't matter whether or not you like it; does it meet the needs
> of the user?


My approach to this topic has evolved. I used to have a key at the
beginning of a manual carefully explaining all the different
typographical conventions for menu items, buttons, code, yadayada. I was
meticulous in checking that I coded each element properly and put out as
nearly error-free a manual as I was capable of. And I am a good enough
designer that the pages looked okay, too. I have moved in stages,
though, to my present point of view that all that effort was not helping
the reader much, if at all--that mostly it was distracting.

With Web applications and with nearly all documentation being read on a
low-resolution device with poor typographic controls, I've come to see
that Tufte's approach is perfectly sensible. It is grounded, after all,
in psychology, not esthetics.

As nobody has yet complained to me, I'm confident that it works well enough.

Can I imagine types of documentation where that approach would not meet
the needs of the audience and bolding the names of the screen controls
would work better? Yes, I can. And many list members may be in such
situations. So I am not proposing that my current approach is the best
for everyone. I'm just saying it works for me now.


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