Re: User documentation - drawings or photographs?

Subject: Re: User documentation - drawings or photographs?
From: "Paul Goble" <pgcommunication -at- gmail -dot- com>
To: TECHWR-L <techwr-l -at- lists -dot- techwr-l -dot- com>
Date: Tue, 22 Jan 2008 11:46:19 -0700

Sylvia asked:

> So, what is the recommendation? Drawings or Photographs and why?

I've been using more photos, too. The user-centered
considerations--which have already been discussed--can interact with
other business considerations. It's rare that unlimited resources are
available to create nice drawings. Given a fixed time budget, I can
include 20 photos or 3 illustrations. Photos give me flexibility to
finish the manual sooner, release the product, and move on to
something else.

Photos are good for complex mechanical tasks, such as showing how to
hold a tool or how to push loose cables out of the way. (GOOD
illustrations might be better, but drawing fingers is tough, and it's
easy to over-simplify and miss the fact that the "virtual" hand is
touching that razor-sharp piece of sheet metal.)

I've heard it argued that one should stick with either photos or
drawings throughout a given set of documentation. Consistency
certainly lends to a more professional look. But for real users, I'd
argue that "professional appearance" is a third-order psychological
effect. Usefulness (or even just adequacy) is much more important.
So go ahead and mix them, within reason.

Paul Goble

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