Could Minimalism Heuristics Improve Document Quality?

When you think of minimalism, what do you think of? When I think of minimalism, I think of being able to easily access documents through different devices. I also think of finding clear and concise information that can help me complete tasks. We are now living in an age of evolving technology and, as such, minimalism is important when trying to convey understandable information. Minimalism is more than just trying to make information more accessible for your audience; it also takes error management into account and how to prevent it. Luckily, there is research about this subject that may help you keep your information simple and organized. Researchers Jenni Virtaluoto, Tytti Suojanen, and Suvi Isohella introduce the concept of minimalism heuristics in “Minimalism Heuristics Revisited: Developing a Practical Review Tool” and explain how it can be used to improve document quality. 

So what are minimalism heuristics? Essentially, they are a tool that can help the different phases in the minimalist documentation process. The research itself provides readers with a table with every step of the process detailed and how technical communicators can use them to their advantage. Virtaluoto and her colleagues introduce three concepts that readers can follow: core tasks and goal-orientation, accessibility, and error management. Each core concept also has subcategories that are helpful as well. 

One important aspect of minimalism is goal-orientation. In this stage, you must ensure that your document is easily accessible. It must be able to explain how the task can be accomplished and whether your audience can begin working on real-life tasks immediately. One tip that I found useful was using examples. Having understandable examples alongside text can help the reader accomplish real-life tasks. These core requirements are very crucial when it comes to editing your document. You want to make sure that your audience knows what they are looking for in your document.

Another concept that the researchers introduce is accessibility. At this stage, you want to make sure that the information you present is clear and concise for the audience. This could include breaking long tasks up into simple structures or adding visuals to make the information easier to digest. The visuals presented have to be appropriate and grab the reader’s attention. This ensures that both the text and graphics are conveying useful information to the reader. Just like with writing, you want your design to be both visually appealing and able to clearly convey information. 

The last concept introduced with minimalism heuristics is error management. This is relevant when writing a troubleshooting section in your document or brainstorming situations in which readers may run into technical difficulties. This can also facilitate the reader’s experience and reduce anxiety they might have while completing tasks. 

Overall, I found that the research presented can be very useful while trying to edit your document for the target audience. Being able to edit your information to appear concise might be a bit challenging. However, with the help of minimalism heuristics, you can have a clear guide as to how you should approach editing your work for your audience. 


Minimalism Heuristics Revisited: Developing a Practical Review Tool, by Jenni Virtaluoto

Viewpoint Written by Jason Brown, Old Dominion University

Viewpoint Edited by Jennifer Tso, UC Davis California & TC Camp Volunteer

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