Callouts in Graphics?

Subject: Callouts in Graphics?
From: Geoff Hart <ghart -at- videotron -dot- ca>
To: TECHWR-L <techwr-l -at- lists -dot- techwr-l -dot- com>, CB Casper <knowone -at- surfy -dot- net>
Date: Thu, 15 Dec 2005 15:13:00 -0500

CB Casper wondered: <<Our documents are translated into multiple languages and we are making a major change in going from FM+SGML to XML. One area that is highly affected is graphics. We are being asked to include no text in any graphic, but to include bubble numbers with lead arrows anywhere we want to include text. We then include a list to provide text for each callout.>>

It's obviously clearer to label the parts of a graphic directly rather than using numbers and a lookup table because direct labeling removes an entire step from the process of using the table: with a number, the user must look away from the graphic, find the desired number in the table, and determine the meaning rather than simply reading the meaning directly from the illustration. But given the complexities and costs of localization, this sounds like a reasonable compromise.

You could probably make this easier with some careful graphic design. For example, arrange the numbers of the callouts, to the extent that it's possible, running from top to bottom of the image, then provide the lookup table beside the graphic, next to the numbers, in the same order. That minimizes the cognitive cost of this extra step because the callout is close to the correct position in the lookup table.

Could you do this by creating a two-cell table, with the left cell containing the graphic and the right cell containing the text? If so, this will work well; I've done something similar in quick-start manuals that were well received by their users.

<<The reason for this change is to provide for easy translation without affecting the graphic itself. The localizers only have to work with text, not with the graphic itself, which can be expensive.>>

Of course, this assumes that the graphic is itself language-free. If the graphics contain English words, you'll need to provide a localized (e.g., French) version of the graphic too. In that case, the solution proposed above provides little benefit. In that case, you need a slightly different variation on this theme: find out what graphics software your localizers use, and figure out how to exchange the labeled graphics with them as painlessly as possible. If you keep the text in a separate editable layer above the graphic (as in Photoshop), it's easy to update that text.

I'm surprised that nobody (in my limited awareness <g>) has done anything much to facilitate localization of graphics: For example, why not write a simple utility that records the position of each text box, extracts the relevant text into a text file (so it can be used with a translation memory system), then reimports the translated text into the graphic file? Given the number of hooks into the Photoshop API, it doesn't seem like this would be rocket science, and it would provide many efficiency benefits when it comes to localizing graphics.

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Geoff Hart ghart -at- videotron -dot- ca
(try geoffhart -at- mac -dot- com if you don't get a reply)
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Callouts in Graphics: From: CB Casper

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