Minimalism vs. Information Mapping: what’s the best choice ?

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In an article dated April 2008, Bob Doyle provides a quasi-exhaustive recap about
the different methods of document design.

Information Mapping

Information Mapping (R) was developed in mid-60’s by Robert Horn who identified 7 common »Information types » of a structured document:

  • classification, concept, principle, procedure, process, structure, and fact.

Structured authoring

Information Mapping is considered the birth of Structured Writing as Mike West explains in « Structured writing, structured documentation ».

Information Mapping is a set of tools:

« Structured documentation is a way of planning and implementing the various phases of a writing project; and we may think of structured writing as a set of tools and techniques to be used by writers during the writing phase of a project »

If Information Mapping is the toolbox, what is minimalism?


Minimalism ?

Information Mapping(R) was designed to help engineers document their programming work (reports, descriptions, etc.). Let’s say it’s a writing guidance for non technical writers. Its structure is pretty rigid and not really designed for task-oriented activities; it is more a classification of information.

Minimalism was developed in the late ’80s by John M. Carroll, member of an IBM team:

« It was task orientation carried to an extreme. Minimalism meant small non-linear chunks readable in any

Less bla-bla, more useful information

order. It emphasized reading To Do, not reading To Know or To Learn, a phrase first introduced by Ginny Redish »

Minimalism puts the END_USER in the center of the information development, not the writer. It focuses on the user’s tasks. The minimalist writer ignores writing tools, GUI or product description. His first questions are always:

« Who is the end-user? What does he want to achieve with this product? »


Outdated?

 

Dr. JoAnn Hackos, expert both in Information Mapping (IM) and minimalism, published an interesting research article showing that 

« IM formatting makes absolutely no difference in user performance. It adds unnecessary words like the stem sentences: « Do we need all that glue?« 

and considers « Information Mapping is outdated« .

 


 

What is GLUE?

 « Glue text is defined as transitional information intended to inform readers of what has come before or comes after a particular procedure, description, or explanation.
In topic-oriented authoring, which forms the basis for the DITA Model, transitional text has become problematic. » (Dr. JoAnn Hackos)


 

So what ?

Talking of modular, DITA-ready documentation,  professional technical writers don’t need to think about facts, principles, structure, etc.  In 2017, they focus on providing user-centered, useful and responsive documentation. The new challenges are findability and usability on any device, anytime, anywhere… Or would you really ask your ChatBot « Give me  a 4-paragraph Introduction » ?…


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Établissement de formation à la documentation technique

Formatrice : Marie-Louise Flacke

Graduate of the American
University of Paris
Tel. 06 03 20 50 10

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