The Pen Is Mightier Than The Mouse

by on October 22, 2005

I’ve always thought that everyone should nurse at least one heresy, and mine is that visual communications of complex ideas are almost always a load of cock. In the field of IA, this is most noticeable in the production of sitemaps, but it can be just as bankrupt for other artefacts as well.

Here’s an example that flashed by me on my current project recently. Part of the design of an application called for the description of a “select tool” – much the same as the tool you have in most graphics packages. The designer had chosen to communicate the tool’s behaviour graphically. Like this:


I could tell by the sheer amount of cognitive noise that page generated in my head that this was going to be a pretty confusing communication for the off-shore developers. Sure, they’d get it eventually, I thought, but it was hardly going to be easy.

In order not to offend the creator of the diagram, I let it pass. A few weeks later, when we saw the first release of the software, it was apparent they’d not got the whole message. So for the next iteration, I removed the offending page and replaced it with this:


This took me about ten minutes and in my opinion is pretty much unambiguous. The software works as intended as well. Which is nice.

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