RE: Using tables for content

Subject: RE: Using tables for content
From: "Janoff, Steven" <Steven -dot- Janoff -at- ga -dot- com>
To: "techwr-l -at- lists -dot- techwr-l -dot- com" <techwr-l -at- lists -dot- techwr-l -dot- com>, Robert Lauriston <robert -at- lauriston -dot- com>
Date: Thu, 24 Oct 2013 11:13:05 -0700

What I'm saying is that the depth of Sean's question is that it is about how the brain organizes and assimilates information it receives visually. I'm sure there have been many studies about this.

So the question is, which is better for learning/understanding/assimilating: (a) a single-column vertical presentation that goes action-result, action-result, action-result, all the way down the page, or (b) a 2-column tabular presentation that has the action-result pair on a single line that encourages left-to-right reading (assuming left-to-right language), which is normally the way we read sentences in a book. I realize this is different and that the information in the two columns does not have equal "weight" -- the action is about what to "do" and the result is about the outcome of what you "did" -- but I'm thinking one or the other presentation might have an advantage beyond simply "looking good." And it could be different for different people. I might do better with left-to-right and you might do better with straight down the page.

In that sense it has nothing to do with tables. "Easier to read for users" is not clear because the information might not have been presented in a palatable form when it was tabular. I would think that if you do it right, a 2-column presentation would be awesome.

At one job we had product web pages that explained a procedure in a two-column tabular format with the step on the left and the associated figure on the right. That worked really well both for the authors and the users, according to the feedback we got.

As I say, I've seen this kind of 2-column tabular presentation of procedures in older documents and from what I can recall they were very well done and were very effective in conveying the information to me at least. Certainly there is no harm in trying it out and seeing how it works but I realize not everyone agrees with that, and of course it depends on the constraints of your process and tools.

Steve


-----Original Message-----
From: On Behalf Of Robert Lauriston
Sent: Thursday, October 24, 2013 10:57 AM
To: techwr-l -at- lists -dot- techwr-l -dot- com
Subject: Re: Using tables for content

Most of the tedious hours I've spent converting tables to ordered lists were to make things easier to read for users. It would usually have been more convenient for me to leave them as they were.

In any case, efficiency and quality of documentation are directly related when resources are limited. If you don't have enough time to do everything you would like to as well as possible, you have to set priorities, and the more time you spend fiddling with more complicated formatting, the less content you are able to create and update.



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Follow-Ups:

References:
Using tables for content: From: Sean
RE: Using tables for content: From: Janoff, Steven
Re: Using tables for content: From: Haim Roman
RE: Using tables for content: From: Paul Hanson
RE: Using tables for content: From: Janoff, Steven
Re: Using tables for content: From: Robert Lauriston
RE: Using tables for content: From: Janoff, Steven
Re: Using tables for content: From: Robert Lauriston

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