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Subject:Finding out if anyone: From:Richard Frampton San Rafael California 415 472-3100 x3413 <FRAMPTONR%RIVER -dot- decnet -at- CANADA -dot- CA -dot- CCH -dot- COM> Date:Mon, 25 Jul 1994 14:49:00 EST
Sue-- one of the dangers of asking questions is getting answers that the
person giving the answers thinks that the questioner wants or just getting
some kind of flippant irrelevant crap. Almost inadvertently you occasionally
get the kind of answers you are looking for. The trick is to be able to ask
the question in such a way that you can skim off the ones that are obviously
off target or out of line. I find that observation is best if it is not too
hard to come by. But most often you pay a price for that too. You always need
to be aware of the price you are paying for information.
One of the best pieces of information that I have come by in my years of
experience (I have always been curious to know why and not for any other
reason) was how people read new material. For some arcane reason (I have seen
some of this here) instructional materials for a company I worked for always
had the examples on the left hand page. I had some training materials that
I was trying out and all of the examples were on the left hand page. I watched
a person going through these materials one morning. I don't think that they
really cared if I watched or not: sometimes I watched and sometimes I didn't.
As long as they were able to get throught the material I didn't interfere
with what they were doing. I noticed that each time this person turned the
page, there was some momentary confusion, looking to the right and then to the
left and finally settling down and continuing. All this took place without
a word from me. But each time a page was turned this same behavior took place.
Then I watched someone else going through the same material and saw the
same behavior taking place, but in a little different way. There was always
this confusion when a page is turned. I thought about it a bit and then at
lunch I changed the material so that the examples were on the right and the
instructions were on the left. After lunch I watched again. Almost suddenly
the page turning smoothed out and the confusion was gone. (I had said nothing
about changing the material at lunch.) I had hit on an obvious fact: in
English we read left to right and top to bottom. When turning pages we always
look to the top left hand corner for new information and proceed left to
right and top to bottom. So native English speakers always look to the left
first and then move left to right and top to bottom. So when presenting
material it should be organized left to right and top to bottom. Now I am aware
that some languages have other presentation schemes. Hebrew and Arabic,
Chinese and Japanese, but I think that all computers present information
left to right and top to bottom. True you can vary from this for some kind
of reason, but I think that that is the basic direction.
My point is that instruction should be rendered in its most comfortable form
to communicate. I like the term "human engineering" which I take to mean that
information is set up to accomodate the individual. Much like the idea of
Japanese cars vs. the Detroit version. The Japanese built cars for people to
drive them. Detroit used to build cars that Detroit like to build. I think that
has changed now and more products are made with the people who buy them in
mind. The same is true of information.
I hope this helps illuminate the issue.
San Rafael, California
framptonr%river -dot- decnet -at- canada -dot- ca -dot- cch -dot- com