Wednesday, May 31, 2006

Dogmas Are Meant to be Broken: An Interview with Eric Reiss

on web dogma...

"At a university where robots were celebrated and MBAs were heroes, I studied technical writing and communication design, using the combination as a way to understand how to write and design for different audiences. At that time, these studies—called mostly “technical writing”—took the form of the reticent user manual. Sometimes it took form as an instruction booklet on how to operate a washing machine. Other times, it took form of a help system on golf course irrigation. You see, the content always differed somewhat fiercely. What remained remarkably the same, however, was the need for clear ways to communicate instructions. Jargon-free text, clarity, and concision were the dogma of our days as technical writing students. Tech writing, as humdrum as it may be reputed, is rich with wildly helpful principles and guidelines.

And writing is still where we find many well-known guidelines. William Strunk, Jr., and E.B. White, perhaps best known for the staple The Elements of Style (or, in some circles, the latter for Charlotte’s Web), are the most prominent household name on word slashing and clarity. “Omit needless words,” they caution. “Vigorous writing is concise. A sentence should contain no unnecessary words, a paragraph no unnecessary sentences. ...”

Since those days, I’ve been interested in finding the same kind of principles written specifically for web design. There are, no doubt, Jakob Nielsen’s heuristics. But I’ve been searching for something that allows for a bit more autonomy—guidelines that provide structure without confining. That’s why, when I saw Eric Reiss’ Web Dogma quietly hanging on the wall at the Information Architecture Summit in Vancouver, I was intrigued. This simple, typewritten list of 10 said the following:"   continued ...   (Via boxes and arrows)

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