Designing Usable Texts by Thomas M. Duffy, Robert Waller

By Thomas M. Duffy, Robert Waller

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USING CONTEXT AND INFORMATIVE HEADINGS Informative documents, unfortunately, often lack any context-setting information for their readers. The title is often a string of nouns that the reader has to untangle in order to understand. What is a report with the following title about? Flag Prairie Validation Prescribed Control Burn Cultural Resource Reconnaissance (That's really the name of a report. ) Titles are not the only problems. Instead of finding a context at the beginning of a document, readers are often dropped into the middle of critical information without any notion of where they are going or why they are going there.

And alas, some of those that have good content and conceptual structure are undone by the visual illiteracies perpetrated on them—one must assume without the author's being able to do anything about it. This kind of text, which is mainly intended for self-instruction, particularly needs careful visual structure that reinforces conceptual structure—but it does not often get it! Publishers claim that they cannot afford to pay typographers to design anything but the book jacket and frontmatter—and if they can keep on selling their books without skilled design, even if thereby the readers are deprived of much of the help they could get—what is going to make them do differently?

Plan systems for storing and retrieving information that will be used in writing texts and try them out. 8. Plan timetables for writing and test them in practice. 9. Organize given information elements to form a logical structure for a given purpose. 10. Define one's own list of elements on the basis of a detailed brief and plan a structure for them. 11. Practice choosing appropriate methods of presentation for given users and use and apply them. 12. Evaluate text written in various ways for its fitness for various readerships and uses.

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