Information design ensures that people of all expected reading abilities can notice and comprehend the key information you want to convey. It includes both structure and presentation of information for optimal viewing. Scanability of information is important in these days of information overload.
Using structured techniques, TecEd works with you to define the information to communicate, the audiences who need it, the use cases for accessing it, and the delivery method(s) to ensure that audiences can read it easily and acquire the information they need. TecEd brings together a team of writers, editors, and graphic designers with formal training and experience in designing successful information pieces.
Key components of information design are:
Designing Information for Usability
Designing usable information means planning the access, presentation, flow, and support of information for particular uses. Because more and more information is available in electronic rather than print format, information design must account for visual user interfaces, interactive and non-linear access to information, strategic cross-linking, and highly individualized or random patterns of information access and use.
In addition, user interfaces are now expected to incorporate instructions for use and access. Such instructions must be visible, accessible, legible, and usable.
Information interfaces must combine usability of interaction and features with content information design to create usable, useful applications and services. Information design incorporates aspects of usability, information architecture, technical communication, and visual design. Specific design techniques that improve information usability include:
- Grouping of related information
- Organizing and labeling information for coherent non-linear access
- Cross-linking to provide redundant access to topics
- Matching order or flow of information to user task flow
- Using familiar terminology
- Providing immediate, transparent access to mission-critical or frequently needed information
Usability testing of information design is key to ensuring that all information elements contribute to successful use of information.
Related TecEd Papers or Publications
- Combining Usability Research with Documentation Development for Improved User Support
- Helping Users to Use Help: Results from Two International Conference Workshops
- The Best of Both Worlds: Combining Usability Testing and Documentation Projects
Process for Information Design
Websites, contextual instruction, user documentation, and technical and marketing literature can all benefit from information design. Information design involves several steps, including:
- Define audiences for your product or information, define their importance to the organization, prioritize the audiences (primary, secondary, or peripheral), and list characteristics and information goals for each audience.
- Develop an information plan or storyboard, including:
- Use cases for accessing the documentation – identify the information lookups that will constitute 80% of the documentation use, including the audience, situation (task), and the information chunks that satisfy the information need
- Information structure (topics, subtopics, and cross-linking)
- Information types and formats (instructions, directions, forms, articles, audio narration, animated demos, troubleshooting algorithms)
- Media and presentation formats (print, hypertext, software, audio, video, animation, CD, tape, film, photographs, kiosk, website, lecture, live demonstration)
- Create samples—Develop sample information pieces to ensure that style and terminology work for target audiences
- Revise content—Develop, review, and revise content until it meets audience and organizational needs
Minimalist Design for Documentation
How can technology users learn more efficiently and use products more successfully? By working more with the product and less with the documentation. This is the theory behind the minimalist design model, which was developed by Dr. John Carroll and is the subject of many papers in the human factors and documentation fields.
The principles of minimalist design can be applied to complex technical documentation as well as to introductory training materials:
- Reduce expository text
- Create modules or chunks that can be used in any order
- Expect user errors and provide recovery tips
- Concentrate on the user’s own tasks