Re: FW: What alternatives are there to "Information Mapping"?

Subject: Re: FW: What alternatives are there to "Information Mapping"?
From: "Mark Baker" <mbaker -at- omnimark -dot- com>
To: "TECHWR-L" <techwr-l -at- LISTS -dot- RAYCOMM -dot- COM>
Date: Mon, 22 Nov 1999 14:15:03 -0500

Christine Pellar-Kosbar wrote

>So, the criticism that the original poster was making against Information
>Mapping is that it does not necessarily address this first priority.


Not that this is a problem of information mapping per se. It is a problem of
methodologies in general. There is always the tendency to think "I have
followed the method, so my work is done." But there are always things
outside the method. It is particularly significant that this problem showed
up not in the work of some writer who once took a IM course and kind of
vaguely tries to remember and use the method, but in the showpiece that the
company itself created specifically to illustrate the essential quality of
the IM methodology. They were blinded by their reliance on their own

And we should note that the "extra, oh, 2 seconds" that Kathleen Kuvinka
suggests were all it should have taken to find the right information is not
accurate either. It would only be true if you knew how the page was designed
and knew where the connecting information was to be found. But to really
know how a page is designed, you have examine the page closely. That takes
more than two seconds. In fact, it takes longer than reading a page of plain

Sophisticated page designs are created specifically to assist people in
accessing the information they want and ignoring the rest. People should be
entitled to rely on the sophistication of the design to ensure that they are
not misled when skimming and finding information quickly.

The virtue of simple linear page design is that it does not tend to
encourage skipping and skimming. If people do skip and skim to find
information, at least the relationships between pieces of information are
clearly expressed in liner prose that they have no choice but to read. It
may take people longer to get information, but it is more likely to be the
correct information.

If you indulge in complex page design, you are playing with fire. It can be
a tremendous aid to the reader. It can also cause misunderstanding and
disaster if done badly. Glibly encouraging people of limited experience to
try high wire design tricks with their information does not strike me as
particularly responsible.

Mark Baker
Senior Technical Communicator
OmniMark Technologies Corporation
1400 Blair Place
Ottawa, Ontario
Canada, K1J 9B8
Phone: 613-745-4242
Fax: 613-745-5560
Email mbaker -at- omnimark -dot- com

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