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Should Technical Writing Always Include Visual Instructions?

15th March 2012 Posted in Blog, Communication, Documentation 0 Comments

Visual Communications in Technical Writing

For the audience out there interested in learning something new, the technical writer needs to remember that not everyone learns in the same way.  While you might be able to learn from a piece of paper, others might need to hear the information, while others may learn best from pictures.  But can you please everyone?  Should you?

The Picture of Learning

What you might not realize is that visual instructions can be just as confusing as they can be enlightening for some.  While you might need to see a picture, others might be stressed out by the instructions when they see them in a video or in an animated way.  So, a compromise needs to be reached in some way.

  • Use slow moving animations – You don’t want to use instructions that move too quickly as it might cause the viewer to feel anxious about what they’ve seen and less likely to retain what is being presented.
  • Focus on simple visual instructions – While simple instructions might not require animations, if you are going to use them, don’t use them solely for complicated instructions.  Keep things simple and your audience will actually recall what you’ve presented to them.
  • Show the instructions to multiple audiences first – If you’re just not sure how effective the instructions might be, then you want to show them to as many audiences as possible before you present them as the ‘way things are going to be taught.’  Look at the feedback you get and make the necessary changes to ensure everyone is happy, or as satisfied as they can be with technical courses.

True, you’re not going to make everyone happy, but while technology is great, don’t let it stand in the way of relaying the proper information. Sometimes, a picture can give too many words.  And that’s not necessarily a good thing.

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