LexPower

When Should You Use Images?

Posted on: January 28, 2010

It can sometimes be difficult to decide whether to use images in a document. And if you have ever worked as part of a project team, then you know that the opinions of your colleagues on that point can range widely, which complicates arriving at a mutually agreeable decision. How to reach consensus? How to determine if images really are necessary for clarity and audience understanding, or if the document would serve its purpose just fine without them?

After all, images take up space in a document. They can make layout and formatting more difficult and time-consuming and, especially for print pieces, typically increase production and printing costs.

As a rule of thumb, if you answer “yes” to one of the following questions, then you may need to incorporate images into the appropriate parts of your document:

  • Does the document discuss a physical object, or the relationship of one object to another? (plants, animals, hardware, equipment, and so on)
  • Does the document discuss a logical object? (software, a process, a procedure, and so on)?
  • Does the document concern how something changes over time?

Now, let’s assume that you have answered “yes” to one or more of the preceding questions. To help refine your thinking about where images should appear in the document, ask the following set of questions:

  • Would an image help your readers understand a sequence of steps in a procedure? (example: a flowchart)
  • Would an image help your readers identify the parts that make up a physical object? (example: an illustration or a photo with each part labeled)
  • Would an image help your readers understand how a software application is organized? (example: a structure diagram)

If the answer is still “yes,” then images will probably be essential to the success of your document.  Elizabeth Lexleigh  The Write Ideas

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