RE: Visuals in work instructions: how many is too much?

Subject: RE: Visuals in work instructions: how many is too much?
From: "Jim Morgan" <Jim -dot- Morgan -at- jdsu -dot- com>
To: <techwr-l -at- lists -dot- techwr-l -dot- com>
Date: Tue, 5 Jun 2007 13:18:52 -0700

Wes wondered:

"I'm writing some assembly work instruction. The rough draft is just
over a page, with 11 steps. Right now, I have 6 visuals in mind. Is this
too many, or is there no real rule for this sort of thing?"

I agree that there is no standard, and certainly the answer will depend
on the audience and type of work. For physical assembly work with an
audience that speaks at least some English, I bet your ratio is right on
target, Wes.

But for most audiences and uses, I think putting in too many visuals
slows down reading speed without added benefit. (In print, anyway: In
hypertexts, this problem is easily solved by providing links to
nonessential visuals, instead of embedding the visuals in the text.) My
practice has been to include visuals if, as one of the other replies
noted, the text cannot make the action clear. For example, in user help
I don't say "Result: The Blah Window opens," and then include a shot of
the Blah window. They can see that onscreen. But if they have to turn
off some options and turn on others, I will include a shot of the Blah
window as it should appear when the user is done with those actions.

Regarding localization, if you are using visuals that have English (or
whatever) on them, they add significant costs to the localization
process. Either each screen shot must be retaken for each language skin,
or the text must be rewritten at each place that is not possible.

Finally, it can be challenging to put the most simple operation into an
all-visual format that catches each minor action needed and uses symbols
that will make sense across cultures. In ESL situations, I think there
is no substitute for text at third-grade reading levels with visuals
that fill in the gaps or reinforce that the user is on the right path.


Jim Morgan
Senior Technical Writer (Consultant)
JDSU is a trademark of JDS Uniphase Corporation

Create HTML or Microsoft Word content and convert to Help file formats or
printed documentation. Features include support for Windows Vista & 2007
Microsoft Office, team authoring, plus more.

True single source, conditional content, PDF export, modular help.
Help & Manual is the most powerful authoring tool for technical
documentation. Boost your productivity!

You are currently subscribed to TECHWR-L as archive -at- web -dot- techwr-l -dot- com -dot-

To unsubscribe send a blank email to
techwr-l-unsubscribe -at- lists -dot- techwr-l -dot- com
or visit

To subscribe, send a blank email to techwr-l-join -at- lists -dot- techwr-l -dot- com

Send administrative questions to admin -at- techwr-l -dot- com -dot- Visit for more resources and info.


Previous by Author: Tech Writer and BA Title
Next by Author: Re: Online vs paper-based editing
Previous by Thread: RE: Visuals in work instructions: how many is too much?
Next by Thread: Re: Visuals in work instructions: how many is too much?

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

Sponsored Ads