3D Documentation

I recently experienced the latest technological marvel: 3D television, and have to admit – it is spectacular. The images have an incredible depth, and also can appear to “pop out” towards you, for a virtual virtual reality experience. But it ain’t a cheap experience.

A 40″ Samsung 3D TV currently sells for $2,500 CDN. The special glasses required sell for $250 a pair. For a typical family of four, that means an extra $1,000 just for the eyewear! And, you have to buy a new Blu-Ray player and new 3D Blu-Ray disks. And a new type of cable to connect it all. Didn’t we just go from DVD to Blu-Ray? What’s next? 4D TV?

To be fair, 3D TVs can also convert regular 2D images (regular TV channels and DVDs) to 3D, but the effect is not as great as with a true 3D source. If nothing else, 3D TV will drive down the price of regular HDTVs, which themselves are light years ahead of CRT TVs.

The price will have to drop considerably for this new technology to have any chance of succeeding. If it does, it is proof that people are willing to spend just to get an extra dimension. However, dimensions don’t just apply to images: they also apply to information.

The dimension of information is its scope and quality. If the contents of a guide have a good dimension to them, it means they are in-depth, clear, detailed, meaningful and practical. If the contents lack dimension, then the guide is “flat”. A flat guide explains only the basic facts of a product, and not their relevance or practical application. A flat guide does not add value; a dimensional guide is the essence of “value-added”.

Adding dimension to a guide means including things such as:

  • clear explanations of all the concepts
  • a detailed glossary of all the terms; if a term is used in the definition of another term, it should be hyperlinked to its definition so the user can easily move from one term to the next
  • an explanation of exactly why a user would complete a task, before presenting the actual task steps; if the explanation itself raises another “why?”, then it is not a true explanation
  • different ways to accomplish the same task
  • relevant cross-references to other topics (but not too many because then the user will be overwhelmed!)
  • detailed screenshots, with all of the elements clearly labeled
  • a rich index that anticipates all the ways a user might look up a topic
  • a feedback form where users can directly comment on the usefulness of a topic

Don’t be flat. Take your docs into the next dimension. (No 3D glasses required.)