Landscape vs. Portrait

Subject: Landscape vs. Portrait
From: "Latella, Vincent" <VINCENT -dot- LATELLA -at- saic -dot- com>
To: <techwr-l -at- lists -dot- techwr-l -dot- com>
Date: Fri, 23 Oct 2009 17:20:03 -0400



I'm currently writing a user guide for a proprietary application that features some *really* busy-looking screens. Some of the tasks described in this user guide require the user to view and analyze all of the information on a given screen.



For that reason, I've taken some screenshots that span the entire width of the window at hand (cropped above and below the relevant area, so that they're narrow, but wide).



The call-outs describing what's shown in each of these screenshots have gotten downright scary; because I'm squeezing the entire window width onto an 8 ½" piece of paper*, I've had to densely pack call-out descriptions above and below each screenshot.



Obviously, this isn't optimal from a usability standpoint, so I'm revising it.



My manager suggests that I split each wide screenshot into two separate shots, and space everything out over multiple pages if need be. My fear there is that the users will lose some context in the transition, and my manager acknowledges that it's a valid concern.



My alternative suggestion was to change the document's orientation to landscape, so that I'm dealing with 11" of space instead of 8 ½". As a sample, I went ahead and re-oriented one of the pages with the crazy call-outs, and lo and behold, it's substantially more manageable and less frightening. I showed my manager, and he agrees that it's a big improvement.



That said, are there any rules regarding document orientation that would apply here? I'm using IBM's style guide, and I couldn't find anything regarding page orientation in it. Am I violating some sacred law of technical communication here? If I go with a landscape format, are there any hidden caveats about which I should be concerned? Lastly, am I missing some far superior alternative solution?



Thanks, and sorry for posing this kind of a question on a Friday Afternoon!



-Vin



(*The guide will ultimately be a user-printable .pdf.)



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