Re: New Chapter On Right/Leave Left Page Blank -Reply

Subject: Re: New Chapter On Right/Leave Left Page Blank -Reply
From: Chuck Martin <cwmartin -at- US -dot- ORACLE -dot- COM>
Date: Thu, 27 May 1999 11:31:31 -0700

Bill Sullivan wrote:
> |It personally wouldn't insult my aesthetic
> sensibilities to see a chapter start on the left of a page. Would it you?
> If we are just voting here, I will say no. I have a diverse background in =
> publishing, and I personally believe I can handle a change in chapters =
> anyplace you want to put it. Frankly, I am surprised that so many posters =
> to this list have come down in favor of the right-hand page. Honestly, I =
> would have thought a group of tech writers would be a little more liberal =
> and open to change than that. And the "usability" argument gives me =
> chills.=20
OK, 2 cents (at least).

Just as in interface design, it's not a matter of aesthetics. It's a
matter, of convention, expectation, and what works. While I'm not going
to spend time researching the issue, I can't recall any book I've seen,
from technical manual to computer book to science hardcover to trade
paperback to mass-market paperback that didn't start chapters on the
right-hand page. (Interestingly, though, one of my favorite design
books, Jan White's "Graphic Design for the Electronic Age," doesn't
strictly adhere to this tenet; each chapter starts on a 2-page spread
with a full-page graphic covering the left page and the actual text
beginning on the right.)

But it's also not a question of people being open to change or not.
Again, using the parallel of software design, the look and feel of an OS
uses many standards. Developers need a doggone good reason to violate
those standards, not just because it is believed that such a violation
is more aesthetically pleasing to those particular developers or they
don't like the standards that exist.

Aesthetically, there would be nothing wrong with installing U.S. traffic
lights with the green light on top and the red light at the bottom. But
were I driving and I saw that change, while I'd know what each color
meant, I'd sure do a huge double take at the placement. The same goes
true for where chapter pages start: I'd know what's going on, but it
would be something that would be very noticeable.

As a side note, the difficulty of using a particular tool to achieve a
desired result is *not* a good reason to decide to do things

"[Programmers] cannot successfully be asked to design for users
because...inevitably, they will make judgments based on the
difficult of coding and not on the user's real needs."
- Alan Cooper
"About Face: The Essentials of User Interface Design"

Chuck Martin
Principal Technical Writer, Oracle Developer
Tools Division, Oracle Corporation


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