Minimalism favors short, task-oriented content over long, narrative material. Often based upon minimalist theory, the 'Plain language' movement seeks to present information in a way that makes it as easy as possible for people to understand, most often by removing unnecessary complexity and specialized terminology from documents.
ASD-STE100 Simplified Technical English (formerly AECMA Simplified English) is a specification for writing aircraft documentation. The principles can be applied to all industry sectors. ASD-STE100 provides a set of writing rules and a dictionary of words and their meanings. It has a limited number of words; a limited number of clearly defined meanings for each word; a limited number of parts of speech for each word; a set of rules for writing text. This article outlines the standard, and shows how it helps to prevent ambiguity in text.
Interview with John Carroll, best‑known among technical communicators as “The Father of Minimalism,” a title he earned as a result of his popular book, The Nurnberg Funnel.
Intercom's assistant editor profiles a recent recipient of STC's President's Award. The Securities and Exchange Commission was honored for requiring plain English in all disclosure statements filed with the SEC.
Plain English is good for increasing the quality of written documents. Unfortunately, it has limits in many technical situations. We need a special form of language, known as a controlled language, to overcome those limits. One particular controlled language is ASD Simplified Technical English.
A persistent rule of thumb in the programming trade is the 80/20 rule: '80 percent of the useful work is performed by 20 percent of the code.' As with gas mileage, your performance statistics may vary, and given the mensurational vagaries of body parts such as thumbs (unless you take the French pouce as an exact nonmetric inch), you may prefer a 90/10 partition of labor. With some of the bloated code-generating meta-frameworks floating around, cynics have suggested a 99/1 rule—if you can locate that frantic 1 percent. Whatever the ratio, the concept has proved useful in performance tuning.
It's easy to describe documentation cruft, and often easy to identify it once you see it, but it's hard to estimate how 'crufty' a document actually is. Furthermore, it's often hard to convince the creators of a document that 'their baby' isn't as beatiful as they believe it to be.
For simple, commonly known actions in a closed environment, you probably can design your way to a “no user documentation” approach. Good design can also lead to less documentation. However, customers may expect to do more than that with a product and, in those situations, documentation can play a key role in meeting those expectations.
If you want to test the clearness of your writing, you may wish to consider using a 'fog index.' Fog indexes measure the complexity of writing samples, and often provide a means of calculating the reading or educational level required to understand a particular passage. Some fog indexes are available as computer software programs, or you may do the calculations yourself.
The best products don’t focus on features, they focus on clarity. Problems should be fixed through simple solutions, something you don’t have to configure, maintain, control. The perfect solution needs to be so simple and transparent you forget it’s even there. However, elegantly minimal designs don’t happen by chance. They’re the result of difficult decisions. Whether in the ideation, designing, or the testing phases of projects, UX practitioners have a critical role in restraining the feature sets within our designs to reduce the complexity on projects.
Computer jargon, a “tick box” culture and unimaginative advertising are discouraging Internet users from learning how to protect themselves online. Faced with such gobbledegook, many of the world’s nearly 2 billion Internet users conclude that security is for “experts“ and fail to take responsibility for the security of their own patch of cyberspace -- a potentially costly mistake.
One of the most important and difficult parts of technical documentation concerns writing in a concise manner. Technical writing is different than writing fiction or magazine articles, where a mood may be set or--in some cases--where space must be filled. (People seldom buy thin books.)
Sure. We’ve been reducing word count in procedures for some time. It’s time to do more, however. As noted in an earlier post, we have to think mobile. Think small screens and small devices. Screen real estate will be at a premium.
Designing a user interface using minimalist principles for guided exploration can reduce the amount of paper and text necessary to document the system. Graphics in the interface can help the user grasp the concepts of the system, while dialog boxes, status information, and error messages can aid in recognition of success and recovery from errors. Online help can then be used as a backup for users if they get stuck. Reducing text and paper can reduce translation and printing costs, making this process very attractive.
With training in everything from stage design to Egyptology to hypertext games to web projects, Reiss has had extensive practice in finding out what makes an experience work. Could these be the principles I've been waiting for? I tracked down Reiss in Vancouver to find out.
In reality, the user just wants a brief, clear explanation of a concept or task. The user will glance and skim — reading behaviors hardly worthy of the elitist grammarian who argues the finer points of “which” versus “that” in restrictive clauses.
Perhaps the worst way to condense a book is by using smaller or condensed type; you want to be especially careful that all fonts are legible. Neither should you save space by tossing out pictures or diagrams that clarify subjects. Some engineers cram paragraphs together, but paragraphs are valuable structural devices that can make subjects more clear. So the clue to successful condensation of text is not mechanical miniaturization but literary efficiency.
What if E.B. White had written 'Hanging Commas 99% Bad' instead of a gentle list of reminders for young writers? Wodtke outlines how White's list of 22 reminders for writing can be just what young designers need.
There are a number of filler phrases in English that start with “in.” You can improve the readability of your technical documents by eliminating such phrases and using much shorter equivalents.