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>I don't think most readers are going to comment much on >design, if it's clean and they can get to the information they >need, and get to it quickly.
>Deliver needed information to the reader when they need it.
You're seperating out design and usability: my position is that a manual
that is easy to use IS a manual that's well-designed. When I talk about
aesthetics, I'm not advocating some abstract standard. I'm talking about
standards of design that are very much audience and context-dependent.
In fact, I'd go so far as to say that, as writers, we can produce more
effective manuals if we stop thinking of aesthetics and usability as two
seperate issues, and realize that we don't have one without the other.
Many of the basics of effective manual design have been quantified, and
we can easily develop a very detailed aesthetic from these basics.
Of course, many average readers can't explain exactly why one manual is
usable and another isn't. But they do perceive the difference, even if
they can't always articulate it or even notice it consciously. Just the
fact that they will use one manual and avoid another shows that.
>I'll always go for simple.
No arguments there - so long as it's a functional simplicity.. For
example, I like the idea of minimalism, but not if (as in the average
Microsoft manual) that means leaving out essential information.