Some people think that if the content of documentation is great, no one cares about its design. But is it really so? I wouldn’t say so. We all like neat and clear documentation which is easy to read. Carefully chosen design contributes to the message of the document. Besides, it helps readers scan the document quickly and get to know its main idea. So what makes documentation good looking and why?
Headers and Footers
A header appears at the top of the document. A footer appears at the bottom of the document. They both organize the structure of the document. They may contain the following information: document name, topic, subtopic, page number, date, etc. Of course, you don`t have to use all of them, but even the minimum of information will be a good guide for your readers. Besides, it is better not to overload them with information. That will affect the readability of the document.
Headings form the structure of the document and serve as guidelines helping the readers not get lost in it. The readers can choose what part of the document to start from. Headings show what topic is going to be discussed in the passage below. That is why it is important to mark the headings by means of typeface or style.
Sometimes it is appropriate to use columns in the structure of your document. The main aim of using columns is to increase the readability of the text. Narrow columns are convenient for readers — they do not have to scan back the text if they need to revise something. It means they will not get lost in it which is useful as the content of technical documents can be quite complicated.
Lists and Bullets
Both lists and bullets attract readers` attention to what you want to highlight in the text. They emphasize the most important things and at the same time, they create white space in the text making it light and airy. Most readers love that. A very effective practice.
It is something that helps build the structure of the text as do all of the above-mentioned elements. It helps separate parts of the text, graphics, etc. It can help look at the piece of text as a whole unit. At the same time, it enables the text to look less crowded.
Justification is something that is used depending on the style and purpose of your document. Full justification may cause odd spaces, that does not always look neat. But this type of justification is good for small columns and documents meant for broad audiences. Left justification, as a rule, is easier to read and it can be used for a less formal style.
Colors you use should support the main aim and idea of the document. There should be a system in the color choice. No accidental colors can be used. Besides, colors may divide the document into several parts, highlight the warnings and examples contributing to the structure of the technical document. The color choice should always be based on the idea of accessibility.
I hope this information will help you to create reader-centered documentation in a more effective way!