Re: document design: I don't know what I don't know

Subject: Re: document design: I don't know what I don't know
From: quills -at- airmail -dot- net
To: Becca <becca -at- di -dot- org>
Date: Tue, 28 Aug 2012 21:18:39 -0500

There are several things to look at in designing documents.

1. Analysis of the Audience,
2. Determination of the document's purpose.
3. Delivery method, and the advantages and disadvantages of each method.
4. Needs of the business unit.
5. Amount of information to present.
6. Amount and frequency of updates.
7. Method of updates.
8. Types of information to present.

When you can answer all of these you can begin to design a document.

Fonts and families are more the details of document design. As are the more technical aspects such as layout, organization of information, document structure, and document navigation.

Fonts and typefaces are important for readability and to satisfy our creative urges. Ok, mostly it's for readability.

Then comes layout, how the page is to look, sizes of the various headings, and other elements from normal text to lists, callouts, captions, and other titles.

I separate document design from other parts as the media used for delivery. This includes considerations of delivery method (paper, PDF, ebook, HTML, DITA, XML, etc.) Also included in this are transformations from the writing medium to the delivery media. You may write it in FrameMaker but deliver it on paper, PDF, or HTML. If you use a structured language like XML, are you going to use Docbook, your own DTD or schema, or DITA.

Organization of information determines the style of writing, as well as what type of document: brochure, quick reference card, pamphlet, user guide, navigation aide, system manual, or multi-volume book.

Document structure includes how you put the information together, as a chapters, articles, discrete topics (DITA), or something else. This also leads into document navigation. Are you going to need a table of contents, hypertext links, indices, or other navigation aids that you must construct.

Becca wrote:

I am in a technical communication certificate program at our local community college. I'm trying to put together a proposal for an independent study class on document design from a writer's viewpoint. (My documents are serviceable, but not particularly inspired). The school has several courses that relate to what I want to learn: for example, there's a typography class and a document design class, but they're all part of the Graphics Design curriculum, and (from the few courses I've taken in that curriculum) very design-focused, not document-focused. I'm not a graphics designer, and not interested in the design of type faces, for example, but I know I need to know more about specing type faces beyond Arial and Times New Roman. the trouble is, I don't know what I don't know - I'm not sure where to begin asking the questions, much less finding answers.

So - if you were designing a 3-credit course in designing technical documentation, what sorts of topics would you include?



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document design: I don't know what I don't know: From: Becca

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