Visuals in Manuals for Japa

Subject: Visuals in Manuals for Japa
From: Liz Babcock <Liz_Babcock -at- C28B5 -dot- CHINALAKE -dot- NAVY -dot- MIL>
Date: Mon, 27 Dec 1993 14:52:25 -0800

Mail*Link(r) SMTP Visuals in Manuals for Japanese Readers
I've just returned from celebrating the holidays and am reading the 21 December
TECHWR-L, so please excuse me if the conversation on English vs. Japanese users
of manuals has passed beyond this phase. I believe I can contribute a bit to
the discussion, based on having moderated a panel, "Changing the Recipe for the
Mix of Visuals and Text in Manuals for Different Cultures," presented by three
employees of the Sony Document Design Center at the STC 39th Annual Conference
(Atlanta, 1992).

The presentation is summarized in one page (p. 244) in the conference
proceedings). The question these three Japanese members of our profession were
dealing with was precisely the one being discussed in the 21 December list, to
wit: do Japanese and U.S. users differ in their preferences for text or for
visuals in user manuals (in this case for Sony products, of course)? Takamasa
Miyoshi and his co-presenters studied their two markets and concluded that
Americans prefer text-oriented instructions (particularly numbered lists of
instructions, supported by illustrations), whereas Japanese users prefer
visual- or graphics-oriented instructions (with the text perhaps flowing around
a central picture). Miyoshi, et. al., showed examples of Sony manuals for
American users vs. Sony manuals for Japanese users.

To be fair, I do have to say, though, that the members of the audience,
particularly the younger audience members, expressed a preference for the
Japanese example vs. the American one. Maybe the "global village" is outdating
all such generalizations. And perhaps the list participants who have found few
pictures in Japanese manuals are dealing with less-than-optimum products.

Liz Babcock
STC 1st VP
liz_babcock -at- c28b5 -dot- chinalake -dot- navy -dot- mil

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