Benefits of "new chapter on the left"?

Subject: Benefits of "new chapter on the left"?
From: Geoff Hart <Geoff-h -at- MTL -dot- FERIC -dot- CA>
Date: Fri, 28 May 1999 11:38:57 -0400

Strange how some interesting threads can come from old stuff
we've hashed over in the past! It occurs to me that starting all new
chapters on a lefthand page (to create an initial two-page spread)
should be beneficial in most cases where an "establishing shot"
would prove useful. That film term basically means you open a
scene with a camera shot that shows the context within which the
rest of the scene will proceed; by analogy, it might prove very
useful to set the context for each chapter in the same way. (This
fulfills the "orienting" and "providing a schema" roles that are so
important to readers, doesn't take up an inordinate amount of
space, and provides visual relief for an otherwise text-heavy
manual.)

A few examples, which I propose purely to stimulate discussion:

- If the chapter focuses on a specific dialog box, the left panel
might be a screenshot of that dialog box, with callouts identifying
its components and the right page containing quick overviews of
each callout (plus "turn to page X for more details" links). For
advanced users, this might be all the reference material that is
required.

- Similarly, if the chapter referred to a single menu, with each menu
choice leading to its own dialog box, it might be very effective to
create a visual table of contents for that menu: place the menu on
the left, and all the dialog boxes to the top, bottom, and right, with
arrows connecting each menu choice to its corresponding dialog
box, with a page number present to show where to go to get info on
that dialog box. The trick is to avoid creating an overwhelmingly
dense design... but that in itself is an interesting challenge.

Has anyone seen examples of this "in the wild"? Has anyone done
usability testing on such designs? Are there any counterexamples
of ineffective uses of this approach?


--Geoff Hart @8^{)} Pointe-Claire, Quebec
geoff-h -at- mtl -dot- feric -dot- ca

"If pro is opposite of con, then what is the opposite of progress?"--Stephen Wright)


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