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

Subject: Re: New Chapter On Right/Leave Left Page Blank -Reply
From: "Marie C. Paretti" <mparetti -at- RRINC -dot- COM>
Date: Thu, 27 May 1999 17:02:41 -0400

At 11:31 AM 5/27/99 -0700, Chuck Martin <cwmartin -at- US -dot- ORACLE -dot- COM> wrote:
>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.

1 on my shelf right now: Essential Guide to User Interface Design
by Wilbert O. Galitz starts chapters on right and left. Pretty much
every paperback novel on my shelf at home does the same thing
- some chapters start left, some start right.

As has been said ad nauseum, there's no one standard here; there are
only questions of usage. And which page the chapter starts on is only
*one part* of the usability question. What other "locator hints" does the
doc layout contain? Do the chapter numbers (and better yet, titles)
appear in the page headers anywhere? Why do readers want to go
to the beginning of a chapter at all? What sent them there? Was it the
Table of Contents or some cross reference, both of which should
include a page number? In that case, the page numbers had better
be easy to find - easier, I'd argue, than the phrase Chapter 14: How
to Fribble the Widget. Are they looking for a specific topic by flipping? In
that case, information should be in the headers.

It comes down to usability - what does your reader need? If they need
to quickly and easily find the beginnings of chapters, then starting all
chapters on the same side is essential.

To go back to the stoplight analogy Chuck brought up: when I approach
a stoplight, I want to know whether to stop or go. I want to be able to
find that information easily, so a consistent layout matters. When I
open a book I may or may not want to know where a chapter starts.
If that's my concern, then again, consistency is important. But if it's
a reference guide that I'm going to use by looking something up in
the index and then flipping to the appropriate page, the chapters
could start at the bottom of every left page in 4-point text - I'll never go
there so I don't care.

Usability is (almost) everything.

My $.02 for the day.


Marie C. Paretti, PhD
Manager, Technical Communications
Recognition Research, Inc. (RRI)
1750 Kraft Drive, Suite 2000
Blacksburg, VA 24060
(540) 961-6500
mparetti -at- rrinc -dot- com

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