minimalist design

Subject: minimalist design
From: Sherri Hall <shall -at- HILCO -dot- COM>
Date: Wed, 7 Dec 1994 15:02:20 CST

> Q: Are you familiar with the minimalist approach as proposed
> years ago by Carroll?


> Q: Have you used this approach in customer documentation before?
> If you have, please describe the document's purpose.

I used this approach for documenting "troubleshooting" procedures
for computer operators. The package looked much like a recipe box which
contained tabs for major troubleshooting tasks and 4x6 cards with one topic on
each that walked an operator through the necessary steps for the particular

> Q: If yes to the above question, did the approach improve
> customer satisfaction? Would you use the minimalist approach
> again?

The response was EXTREMELY popular by the operators and their management. The
operators were people that DIDN'T read well or didn't like to
read and had very little workspace to sit and read a manual (most stood at or
sat beside a large mainframe while troubleshooting). This minimalist package
gave them quick access to what they needed (which was usually during a stressful
situation--the machine was down and their customers were calling). The cards
were easy/quick to read because of liberal use of icons and section separators
that were used consistently throughout the card set.
Yes, I'd use it again. However, it won't work in my current
employment situation because the technology is too sophisticated.

> Q: What is the nature of the manuals that you write (ex.
> installation or software user guide, etc.)?

a quick answer--I'm write about a toolkit used by software or
process engineers who build applications for a manufacturing plant.

> Q: Do you agree with this statement? "The level of detail in
> manuals should be weighed against the complexity of the
> technology at hand?"


> Q: Would you mind providing some comments on using the minimalist
> approach to lower production costs and lessen the time to
> complete a task ? Other comments?

For me, it was a new packaging experience so the time I saved
in writing was spent in researching packaging options,
research standard icons to use, testing those icons on
users, etc.

If you need clarification, I'm at shall -at- hilco -dot- com -dot-

Sherri Hall, Product Manager-Documentation Email: shall -at- hilco -dot- com
"I love being a writer. What I can't stand is the paperwork." Peter DeVries

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