Re: Size 10 Font in User Guides Acceptable for Body Text?

Subject: Re: Size 10 Font in User Guides Acceptable for Body Text?
From: "Jonathan West" <jwest -at- mvps -dot- org>
To: techwr-l -at- lists -dot- techwr-l -dot- com
Date: Fri, 7 Mar 2008 18:27:10 +0000

I have at this point to relate an amusing story. Last year, I got a
contract to produce a range of Word & PowerPoint templates for a
technology company in the UK. The arrangement was that they
commissioned a design agency to design the layouts, and I would
implement the layouts in Word.

The design agency came up with the most fantastically intricate layout
for the larger Proposal-type documents: mixed one- and two- column
layouts, meaningless pretty graphics scatted randomly across the
document, 8 alternative colour schemes (with different cover page
graphics to match). Body text was 9pt Arial, and the text for the
Terms of Business was 6pt Arial.

I had something of a fight with the design agency initially to
simplify the design to something that your average office worker might
have some slight possibility of being able to use without getting
hopelessly confused, and I queried the font sizes, only to be firmly
told by both the design agency and the customer that this was what
they wanted. So I did the templates as requested, based on 9pt Arial
body text in a mixed 1- and 2-column layout.

But as soon as the customer distributed the templates to his users,
the complaints came pouring in from all sides about the template being
too complex to use. Nobody knew when they were supposed to be in
1-column and when in 2. The font was too small to read properly and
users were applying manual formatting all over the place.

The icing on the cake came with a communication from the Legal
department that the font size of the Terms of Business text had to be
increased. Apparently there was legal precedent that if contractual
terms are so small as to be arguably unreadable, then the terms of the
contract are unenforceable. The Legal department said that the
absolute minimum font size for Terms of Business text must be 8pt

Its the first and only time I've ever been told by a lawyer that the
legal small print was too small!

Since I had already warned the customer about the text being too small
and the layout too complex, I was well in the clear. The design
agency's services were dispensed with, the design was simplified to
1-column only, 11pt Arial for body text, 8pt Arial for Terms of
Business, and all headings increased in proportion. And I got paid to
do the templates all over again :-)

Jonathan West

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.

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Size 10 Font in User Guides Acceptable for Body Text?: From: Ronquillo, Michael

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