Thursday, August 24, 2006

Document Design and Publication

Design Principles for Exceptional Documents
People often spend many hours of effort in writing in both academic and professional settings. Much of the energy is spent in research and writing. Little, if any time is devoted to planning about how the finished document is "going to look." If you think of your document as a means of communicating you may find that attention to the layout and design of the document will improve and enhance the communication process.
With the advent of computers the process of writing has completely changed. We no longer simply place words on paper and ask our audience to read it. A well-designed document will include text, charts, and images arranged aesthetically to engage as well as inform the reader.Basic design principles are the underlying factors in every successfully printed or electronic document we see today, such as magazines, newspapers, and television and internet websites. Some simple pre-planning or forethought of these principles towards your document design can go a long way in improving the communication value of a document. A few of these design ideas are outlined below:
Document Design, Readability and Contrast
The overall purpose of writing a document is to communicate with other people; that is to have other people read your document. If your document is single-spaced small print with no images or diagrams and no headings anywhere, just a mass of words, it may not be read as quickly as a document which is well spaced, has headings and contains pictures and diagrams. There are numerous examples of important information that was never read because the documents did not look readable.

The first principle of document design is therefore to make your document look enticing to the reader and friendly to the eyes. That doesn’t mean it has to be flashy with blinking text and more pictures than necessary, just that it be organized, easy to read and be esthetically pleasing. Contrast, or proper use of document elements (background, text, font type, size, color, margins and images) is what draws your eye into the page, it pulls you in. Contrasting elements guide your eyes around the page and create a hierarchy of your information. This principle is very important because many a reader will be potentially turned on or off by the first impression of your document or visit to your site.
Using Fonts Effectively
Using different fonts in a document can create interest and organization. If you look at this document, for example there are basically 2 fonts. Most of the text, including this sentence, is written in black 12-point Times. The font is black because, black is easiest to read on a white background, and it is 12 point because that size font is a good compromise between too large and too small. Times is a serif font because it has little curls (serifs) at the end of many of the characters. Serif fonts are easiest to read and are almost always the kind of font used in books. Other popular serif fonts are Bookman and Garamond.Compare with the font in the heading at the top of this section that says “Using Fonts Effectively”. The heading font is Arial; it’s bold, blue and is 14 point. It provides a nice contrast to the basic font under it. Arial is a font with no serifs and is therefore called sans serif. Other sans serif fonts are Helvetica and Avant Garde. It generally looks good to use a sans serif heading in a larger font with body text in a smaller serif font. Use other fonts for accents where necessary, but don’t use too many.
Consistency or Repetition
You can make your document unified by repeating the same design ideas within a document. For example, most of the headings in this document are in Blue, 14-point Arial bold type and the text is black in 12-point Times New Roman. The margins are the same on all pages. The header and footer are consistent on all pages. All headings and paragraphs are left justified. Consistency unifies the document because it makes the pages look the same. A document with too many different design patterns can look amateurish and be hard to read. The idea is that a pattern of design is developed which pulls all the parts of the document together which ultimately leads to clear communication.
Alignment
Alignment refers to the how items in a document such as lines of text, paragraphs and images relate to one another visually. Every item should have a visual connection with something else on the page. On this page, for example, everything has a strong left alignment. The text is all aligned at the left margin and the headings are all left aligned. Alignment unifies and organizes a document into a strong cohesive unit. It gives your document a cleaner, more dramatic look. Many people automatically left justify text, but center heading and titles. Try using left adjustment for everything on the page. Alignment creates order and results in a more professional look.
If you have multiple images in a document, consider aligning them using either left or right alignment. It will give a clean look to your document. For example, nearly all the images and diagrams in this book are aligned with the right margin.
COLORFUL DOCUMENTATION DESIGN
  • The end users performance and preferences are the final arbiters of design decisions.
  • If you forget to show people where they are in your structure, they consider you as thoughtless or rude.
  • Develop a deep understanding of how your customers do their jobs.
  • With good management, even less experienced or skilled individuals will have the opportunity to do the best work they are capable of doing.

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How to write it _(~)_

Designing your own document:-

Designing your own document designs gives you control of the finished product. To use Word styles, all you need to do is master a few basic design principles. (view)

BOOKS ON DOCUMENTATION DESIGN

Legal Writing in Plain English

The book called legal writing in Plain English published by University of Chicago Press talks about the design principles as follows;
What is the first thing a prospective employer notices about a resume? Its overall appearance. And first impressions matter. But documentation design is about much more than first impression. It is about third and fourth impressions. After all your reader may spend many hours with your work. If you know how to produce readable pages, you will minimize readers head aches and maximizes the effortless retrieval of information.

Reader Feedback in Text Design


Inside the book, Reader Feedback in Text Design: Validity of the Plus-minus Method for the Pretesting of Public...By Menno de Jong published by Rodopi; the following has been denoted;

According to Felker (1980) and Hoeken(1993), the essence of document design lies in the application of research findings that are available form other, adjacent deciplines.

Technical Writing

In another book named Technical Writing by Diana Reep published by Prentice Hall also talks about design principles. She clearly explains what is understanding Design features and the purpose of it.

Some Slides On Document Design.

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