Sunday, December 10, 2006

The Incredible Shrinking Data Sheet

I'm working on a data sheet project with the product marketing team at a software company, and they're having a hard time with the designers in marcomm who keep coming up with new design guidelines for them the follow.

No problem with standards and guidelines, and the overall look and feel are fine, but each time they come up with a new design, they shrink the amount of real estate that's dedicated to content.

They've given us a head's up that the next design  - coming soon! - is going to allow for even less content. As the designer said when the head of product marketing pushed back, "People can only remember three things anyway."

But since when are people supposed to memorize what's on a data sheet? Last time I looked, the purpose of a data sheet is to provide detail on features and technical requirements. It is not meant to be a take-away that someone needs to remember - which is what you may want out of an ad, a direct marketing campaign, or a presentation. Just the opposite: a data sheet is meant to be a take-away that someone actually reads, that they actually refer to when they want information, that they can pass on to someone else who wants to actually learn something about a product.

I'm not really looking forward to the new design. We're already struggling to accommodate the current excess-of-white-space-and-graphic-elements template we were given last fall.

This is a classic case of function being made to follow form, of the dictatorship of design.

If data sheets are going to shrink down to three-bullet content limitations, we might as well print the bullet points up on business cards and leave it at that.

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