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I must say that having spent almost 10 years surfing through the World Wide Web (internet) as well as 3 years having to read academic texts, I have come across various types of document designs that go across the scale from dull and dreary all the way to stunning and striking. More often than not, scholastic texts have bored me to tears while certain web pages can always hold my attention. After having done some research on this issue, here are some of the reasons why there are discrepancies between the two mediums.


The first principle to consider before beginning a document is to identify the intended audience for the text. According to Shriver (1997), document design is meant to “help people to achieve their specific goals for using texts at home, school, or work”. This means that the document should fit the given situation. This would go a long way in holding the readers attention and ultimately fulfilling the purpose of the document.

The layout of a document goes a long way in sustaining the readers’ attention. The heading of a document is the first and foremost important element when considering the layout of a document. As Reep (2006) points out, a heading directs the readers’ attention to the subject at hand and divides main points so that readers understand the flow of the document.




This is especially prominent in the above presentation slide. The heading of the slide captures the readers’ attention at first glance and sustains it so that they are then aware of the information to follow. This makes for a good document design.

Ryan Olshavsky (2003), suggests that a well-planned layout maintains “white space” in the margins and between page elements which lets the pages “breathe”. This helps readers in identifying the information that they seek. Take the following slide for example:




This slide “crams” all the information in one page making the page seem cluttered and disorganized. There are no margins, headers, or footers to give readers an inkling of what the content is discussing. This is an example of an unplanned layout.


So, now that I have pointed out a few pointers on what makes a document perfect or flawed, I hope you have a better understanding of the do’s and don’ts the next time you design a document.


Reference:
Olshavsky, R 2003, Six Tips for Improving Your Design Documentation, http://www.boxesandarrows.com/view/six_tips_for_improving_your_design_documentation

Reep, D C, 2006, “Techincal writing,” 6th edn, Pearson/Longman, New York.

Schriver,K.A. 1997, Chapter 6: Dynamics in document design: creating texts for readers, Wiley Computer Pub., New York
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