User documentation - drawings or photographs?

Subject: User documentation - drawings or photographs?
From: Geoff Hart <ghart -at- videotron -dot- ca>
To: techwr-l List <techwr-l -at- lists -dot- techwr-l -dot- com>, SB <sylvia -dot- braunstein -at- gmail -dot- com>
Date: Mon, 21 Jan 2008 20:30:12 -0500

Sylvia wondered: <<Originally all the graphics in our user
documentation (MS Word) were done done in Corel Draw (vector). We
slowly introduced photographs for procedures (Photoshop is easier)
but the tendency is to slowly replace drawings with photographs. Some
of these drawings were originally created because the product did not
exist yet but most products were simply drawn with Corel Draw. It was
my impression that vector graphics for user documentation was "more
professional" even if we try to have nice photographs of the products.>>

It's not really a question of "professional", but rather one of
effectiveness. Simplistically, photographs are most useful when you
want to show everything the eye will see, exactly as the eye would
see it. That's a "literal" image. Drawings are more useful when you
want to eliminate irrelevant details so readers can focus only on
what remains. That's called abstraction. The more details you need to
eliminate so that you can see only what the author wants you to see,
the more abstraction improves the effectiveness of the communication.

So the larger question is what product you're documenting, and what
amount of visual information is necessary to communicate the key
points. The less visual information you need, the more likely a
drawing will prove superior to a photograph. Some relevant articles
that might interest you:

-- Geoff Hart
ghart -at- videotron -dot- ca / geoffhart -at- mac -dot- com
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User documentation - drawings or photographs?: From: SB

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