RE: Screen captures

Subject: RE: Screen captures
From: Mike Starr <mike -at- writestarr -dot- com>
To: <techwr-l -at- lists -dot- techwr-l -dot- com>
Date: Thu, 14 Feb 2013 17:34:43 -0600

I've been following this discussion with interest but what about the users? Has there been any research or surveys to try to assess whether users want them/don't want them, love them/hate them?

Best Regards,

Mike Starr WriteStarr Information Services
Technical Writer - Online Help Developer - WordPress Websites
Graphic Designer - Desktop Publisher - Custom Microsoft Word templates
(262) 694-1028 - mike -at- writestarr -dot- com -
President - Working Writers of Wisconsin

On 2013-02-14 11:07 am, Janoff, Steven wrote:

The issue of whether screen captures are effective or not does not
appear to be a simple one. I don't feel that it can be dismissed with
anecdotal evidence one way or the other.

The academics studying this at the doctoral level -- not just
doctoral students but established scholars -- have not been able to
offer conclusive proof either way, unless I'm just missing a
particular study (I've only scanned their results).

Admonitions such as "It depends" or "Know your audience" don't
address the larger issue.

This is a cognitive issue, remember. I believe images and text are
processed in different areas of the brain. The question becomes
whether an image can enhance text-based learning at all, and if so,
under what circumstances and, for screen caps, what kind of screen cap
-- but you also have to establish how you're going to measure the
outcome. What determines whether a screen cap is an effective aid or
not? Can screen caps sometimes hinder learning, as has already been
suggested? Are they neutral in some contexts?

I don't see how any of us can offer a conclusive decision based on
our experience if the academics can't. To me it's just guesswork.

There's a need for more research in this area. Until that happens,
to me this falls into the same category as trying to decide a style
point when there is no guideline in the established style authorities
(CMOS, AP, MMOS, GPO, etc.).

Also, the research that has been done is somewhat dated. How do you
account for the increased sophistication of today's users in UI
operation versus those of the 1980s, 1990s, and 2000s? It's possible
that mental models are not static but evolve. I mean that in two
ways. My mental model of a particular software app evolves as I use
it and become familiar with it. And our collective mental model about
certain kinds of UI's evolve as technology evolves. So, for example,
teenagers can master the current crop of digital devices with ease,
while many of us Baby Boomers long for the days when a TV had two

I think any of us are hard-pressed to say "Get rid of all screen
shots" or "Use lots of screen shots" or even "Use some screen shots"
with any authority. Which is a shame, because this is our field,
after all.

STC Vice President Nicky Bleiel is giving a free webinar on best practices
for creating mobile help.

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Screen captures: From: Anonymous
RE: Screen captures: From: Janoff, Steven

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