Page Design Essentials


Page design means different things to different people, but here it will mean the use typographical and formatting elements such as the following:

Our focus here is technical documentation, which implies more modest, functional design.

Headings

The following presents some of the standard guidelines on headings. For a more detailed discussion, see the chapter on headings in the online textbook.

Lists

Lists are useful tools for emphasizing important points, enabling rapid scanning of text, and providing more white space for a text. The following presents some of the standard guidelines on lists. For a more detailed discussion, see the chapter on lists in the online textbook.

Notices

Notices are those specially formatted chunks of text that alert readers to potential problems or danger. The following presents some of the standard guidelines for notices. For a more detailed discussion, see the chapter on notices in the online textbook.

Tables

Tables are like vertical lists, discussed previously, but more structured and formal. In your text, look for repeating pairs, triplets, or quadruplets of items that can be formatted as tables. For example, a series of terms and definitions is a classic use for tables. The following presents some of the standard guidelines for tables. For a more detailed discussion, see the chapter on tables in the online textbook.

Highlighting

Software documentation typically uses a lot of highlighting. Highlighting here refers to bold, italics, alternate fonts, caps, quotation marks, and other such typographical tricks used to call attention to text. The following presents some of the standard guidelines for highlighting. For a more detailed discussion, see the chapter on highlighting in the online textbook.

Margins, Indentation & Alignment

As mentioned in the section on headings, a nice touch is to indent text one to two inches while leaving headings on the left margins. This style does two things: it makes the headings stand out, and it shortens the line length of regular text. In many instances, lines on web browser are far too long to be comfortably readable. As a web page designer, you cannot ultimately control line length, but there are a few tricks you can try. You can use the "hanging-head" format in which all text is indented one to two inches while the headings remain on the left margin. You can also use the two-column variation in which headings are in a left column and text is in a right column.

Fonts & Color

On web pages, you can use color easily. Also, you can use whichever fonts your readers have available on their own computers. Obviously, you can't know which fonts readers have available to them, so you must choose the most common. Here are some suggestions concerning fonts and color:

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