visual indexVisual index, a powerful document access tool, enables readers to easily understand the information that they reading. It is also very helpful in providing the readers additional information through links that are placed on the photo. A visual index is very helpful since human beings are naturally virtual creatures. They tend to get attracted to photos and illustration. Thus, it is more likely that readers will read and understand an article that contains a visual index.

This article tells you about it and how you can create one for your document.

Visual index: what is it?

When reading an article, have you noticed product pictures or pictures containing links that would lead you to relevant information in the related document? This is called a visual index, which readers can look at so that the readers can immediately go to the part of the document or to a related document to which the index pertains.

How visual index is created

It starts with a picture. It could be a photo of your product or process. Based on the type of your product, you can use various kinds of pictures:

  • Physical product
  • Procedure or process, like a flowchart of steps and decisions in the process or procedure
  • Software product, which may include screenshots of the software or before and after images of the work that the software does
  • Organization, which may feature an organizational chart

Carefully select a photo that would best represent the virtual index. When the picture has been selected, the next thing to do is to label it. A visual index contains a label for easier identification. If you are doing a product manual, label all the user-product interaction points (U-PIP) on the photo. This U-PIP refers to situations or scenarios that your User and the Product may interact. Among these include controls, displays, and other relevant physical features of the product like handles and laches.

When you label the picture for your visual index, provide a meaningful name for the U-PIP. You should use that exact label every time you refer to the U-PIP. Here, note that you don’t have an index yet. At this point, it is just a labeled picture of your process or product.

Your picture becomes a visual index when you add links into your document. The links are placed on a section of your document that you think your reader wants to know about that U-PIP. The method of adding links would depend upon the publication feature of the document. For example, if the document is published as a printed document, page numbers should be used for the links. If it is an electronic document, hyperlinks are the best ways to add links. If it is published as html, an image map is your index.

For instance, you article is about a course on writing user documentation. Your visual index would be a flowchart on how user documentation is created. If it is in html, the index is an image map with hyperlinks that leads the reader into different sections of the course that are relevant to each item in the chart.

If what you are writing about is a photo correcting software, your visual index should show a picture with errors that the software can handle. There is a before photo and after photo that shows when the correction was made. The U-PIPs here are each of the photo errors.

It is a simple yet very powerful tool. Whether you are writing about a product or a process, creating a visual index in your document is very helpful for easier understanding of the reader.

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