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Subject:Re: Graphics vs. Schematics From:Keith Arnett <Keith_Arnett -at- RESTON -dot- OMD -dot- STERLING -dot- COM> Date:Mon, 9 Feb 1998 12:54:14 EST
This type of situation calls for thoughtfully prepared line art. I
have documented complex installations for various kinds of electronic
equipment, and photos just don't cut it.
Christine, you didn't say so, but I hope you are not relying solely on
the schematic for instruction. Clearly written instructions should
always be provided to accompany any type of illustration.
Try installing the equipment yourself, if you haven't done so already,
and it's feasible. This will give you an important insight into what
the customer needs to know.
You should be able to prepare the line art yourself, using any of the
standard drawing tools available to you -- even MS Paint. Ask your
SME if he/she can show you examples of similar line drawings used by
others in your industry (although clarity and common sense should
always be your first guide).
Good, clean, usable photos are hard to get, unless you hire a
professional photographer, and that usually costs more than most
companies are willing to invest. The idea that "I can just snap that
with my 35mm auto and get it developed at the photo kiosk" is great,
but it's never that simple, and hardly ever works out.
Then, you get into reproduction issues, such as line screens for
half-tones, and the very good possibility that your printing vendor
will screw up the photo, making even a good picture look gray and
muddy (this is *very* hard to do with line art :-) ).
Technical Writer/Reston Labs
Sterling Software, Inc./Operations Management Division
Reston VA USA
I am getting ready to update a user guide that contains some schematics
that the SMEs are claiming to be "vague" to the user, which is resulting
in lots of calls to tech support regarding the setup of equipment. The
"equipment" consists of a PC unit and other components which will
require lots of cabling and connecting from one to the next (three or
four components altogether, stacked in a rack on top of each other). I
don't yet know exactly why the schematic is vague to the user, so I
don't know if it could be edited to clarify or if it is just the nature
of the beast (I think the former).
I am foreseeing a photo being difficult to read because it will be hard
to tell where a cable is connected in one component and where it ends in
another (the pics would be black and white so the color issue is moot).
But so far the SME is tickled pink at the thought of an actual photo (to
quote him "oh, boy howdie!"), so I may not be able to sway him.
So, do you think it would it be wise to switch to photos? Would it help
to have a schematic alongside the photo? Is it better to have only
photos or only schematics to avoid confusion? Which is more comfortable
for the user?
I'd appreciate any input!
clienhart -at- prevuenet -dot- com