A tech writer defense mechanism

Experienced instructional designers have little tricks and stratagems that help ensure their documentation is both usable and maintainable. This is one of them.

The other day I was using a package of 3M's excellent Command brand picture hangers and felt empathy for what must have been the inexperienced writer of the instructions for use.

In step 3, the customer is told to "Remove one red liner." (From the back of a fastener.) However, as you can see in the photo above, the fastener's liner is green, not red. I'm sure it was red when the writer was working, but somewhere along the line the product changed. Oops.

Mentioning the color of the liner isn't instructionally necessary, and it's disrespectful of color blind customers, and it's a ticking time bomb that will make your document confusingly incorrect when the factory changes to another color. It'll trip you up every time, so avoid it.

Posted: July 29, 2012 link to this item, Tweet this item, respond to this item