RE: Design of online documents

Subject: RE: Design of online documents
From: Sean Hower <hokumhome -at- freehomepage -dot- com>
To: techwr-l -at- lists -dot- raycomm -dot- com
Date: Wed, 3 Mar 2004 07:40:09 -0800 (PST)

HSC Italian wrote:
When a document is delivered in .pdf format on a CD to the end-user, should the template be designed for online viewing or print?

You need to design it to accomodate whatever method your audience will use to view it. For here, there was a push to put all documents, including install docs, in pdf format. My first question was "how convenient is it to have a large set of install instructions displayed on the machine that you're installing a complicated piece of software on?" My answer was "Not very." So, I designed the pdf with some navigation for those that might be reading online, but I designed it mostly for print. And from what I've heard from the people who use the documents that I've put in pdf format, they always print them out.

I think whenever you design a document for a dual purpose (like making a pdf so that it can be useful for both online and print viewing) both uses lose some of their effectiveness. So the question then becomes one of whether that loss will have a negative impact on your audience. It may be that after a bit of audience analysis you find that your readers will prefer a print version, and use it online only sometimes (as is my case). In such a case, I don't see a problem designing mostly for print, but including some helpful nagivation (like blue links). If you find that your audience reads your stuff mostly online, then you should design for that in mind. It may be the case that if your audience is going to be reading mostly online then PDF is not the way to go and you might need to choose a different format.

Sean Hower - tech writer

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