Diagram, photo or ???

Subject: Diagram, photo or ???
From: Geoff Hart <geoff-h -at- MTL -dot- FERIC -dot- CA>
Date: Fri, 13 Feb 1998 08:22:08 +0000

Christine Lienhart is <<...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>> and wonders <<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?>>

Bottom line: Until you've seen the schematics, there's absolutely no
way for you to tell what's right and wrong in this situation. And as
for your last question, you'll have to talk to the users to find out.
Given that I can't specifically answer your questions, here are some
general guidelines:

- photos are generally useless for complex installations because they
contain too much detail and provide no easy way of focusing the
viewer's attention on the specific details you consider important.
(Clarification: Don't get me wrong--there _are_ all kinds of tricks
for making helpful and legible photos. But a basic photo generally
contains too much peripheral information to be truly effective.)

- diagrams "abstract" (simplify) a visual image by including only
what the illustrator considers to be necessary context; as such,
they're almost certainly better than photos provided (i) you have a
good illustrator and (ii) you really do understand what visual
information is necessary context and what is unnecessary.

That being said, either form could work very well if you implement it
right. In particular, your description makes the installation process
seem fairly complex, and I'd bet that your schematics are trying to
show too much all at once. If that's the case, you can solve the
problem using either photos or diagrams simply by taking an
individual photo of each step. For example, don't show:

[A] [B] [C] <--- the final assembled product.


1. [A] [ ] [ ] <--fade the [ ] and the [ ] to highlight the [A]
2. [A] [B] [ ] <--fade the [A] and the [ ] to highlight the [B]
3. [A] [B] [C] <--fade the [A] and the [B] to highlight the [C]
--Geoff Hart @8^{)}
geoff-h -at- mtl -dot- feric -dot- ca

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