By Julio Vazquez
posted on May 03, 2011 10:10
As some of you know, I went on a mini-vacation recently to Orlando. I spent my birthday with my brother and sister basically just hanging out by the pool and enjoy each others' company. Sure, we did other things, but our main idea was just to get some sun and relax.
Well, suffice it to say, we got too much sun. My shoulders are paying the price and that pain got me thinking about a recent discussion on #tcchat on Twitter.
The thrust of the discussion was video in technical communications and how much it can improve knowledge transfer to the audience. I'm going to expand on the concept a little and add graphics in general to my little brain dump here. The reason being that video and graphics have the same general purpose: to transfer knowledge viscerally, possibly augmenting the written word.
While a picture may be worth 1000 words, 1000 pictures is not worth a million words. By the same token, a long video could also lead to dissatisfaction with the information transfer you're trying to achieve. Too many times have I seen either a document with page upon page of screen shots interspersed in a procedural description. The end result is that there's no way to get an overview of the task at hand and there is some frustration and loss of focus as the person walks through the screen shots to get to the end result.
The same can be said of a video. It may detract from information usability to have a 20 minute video that shows every aspect of a particular task. The problem is that the video is too linear and there's no easy way to get to the part of the task that's puzzling to the worker trying to do the task. In fact, if you only rely on a video to show how to perform an assembly, you may turn off a portion of the audience that just wants to quickly glance through the procedure and see how the difficult part is done in a video. It may be better to just have one or two short videos depicting the tricky spots and not the entire procedure.
Lots of graphics and video may appeal to the nascient artist in us, but it may make the audience wonder if they've gotten a Rube Goldberg contraption.
What do you think?
About the Author
Julio Vazquez is a Senior Information Architect at SDI with over 30 years of experience in technical communications and information technology. As one of the members of the initial DITA task force, he takes his share of blame for the current architecture and language structure. Julio holds a bachelor’s degree in computers and information systems from Empire State College of the State University of New York and has spoken at technical communication and STC conferences about DITA and information architecture and is the author of Practical DITA.