I must admit, I hadn’t visited Docs By Design before. The blog started in 2014, well after I began my career in technical writing, but my first taste was pleasant. Instead of a business logo, visitors are greeted by a picture of what I first thought was a seagull in the foreground flying over a slightly blurred image in the background, which I take to be the open sea. As I am usually cooped up somewhere, willingly slaving over my writing chores for the day, the image made me feel freer than usual.
As the Seagull(?) Flies
The bird is in the upper right, flying to the left, toward the page’s center. I describe it because the image is striking in world of technical writing. Usually, you might see the name of the author or the name of the blog or a logo first. This blog is a different kettle of fish. The name of the blog is in the lower left, in all caps and white lettering, which makes it easy to read in contrast with the blue of the sea. Should the heading, DOCS BY DESIGN, not be clear enough, the sub-head, “Bob Watson ponders technical writing, API documentation, and the world in general,” should help clear things up. You know the name of the blog’s author, Bob Watson, and what the blog is about. I like the word “ponders”– I don’t see it used much. To the right of the subheading is a down arrow subtly indicating where to start scrolling to where the blog officially begins. The arrow is so unobtrusive that I missed it the first time and simply scrolled down.
For those curious about the photo, read on.
Layout and Navigation
The layout is simple, easy on the eyes, and once again unusual because the graphic seems to have replaced any banner menu. Black typeface and white background. Few bells and whistles, but lots of welcome white space that add to the sense of freedom. Recent blog posts start with the date and the first couple of paragraphs, and occupy the left two-thirds of the page. The headlines linked to the remainder of the articles and you will find a handy “Continue reading” link at the end. The posts offer plenty of white space between paragraphs that are nicely sized for skimming You can navigate multi-page posts by clicking the page numbers at the bottom of each page, or by clicking the adjacent right or left arrows.
The column on the right contains the nitty-gritty information you need to learn more about Bob Watson and the site. Scroll down to see:
- More Info: This contains an About Me page (this is where Watson’s contact info is listed, and he’s an assistant professor), a Publications page, and Useful Stuff, a tiny but growing list of academic and nonacademic items Watson has found useful. API documentation articles, anyone?
- Tags: These include Agile documentation, Amateur radio (mixing the professional with the personal), Blogging, PhD Dissertation Study (I had no idea that measuring API documentation was a real thing), Technical writing (my favorite, of course), Terminology, Users, and User testing. I didn’t list every category for fear of boring my readers. Visit and have a look for yourself.
- Archives: You are invited to search the archives by month and year. This list goes from March 2018 and reaches back to December 2014 (announcing the new blog). Each month and year pair lists the number of posts in parentheses.
- Blogroll: Offers links to I’d Rather be Writing (Check out my recent review), UX Myths, WriteTheDocs Forum, and TC Myths. UX Myths and TC Myths are new to me, to be honest, so I need to visit those.
- Connect: This section confuses me. Normally, a section called “Connect” lists someone’s social media accounts. But here we find links for subscribing to the blog (normal enough), links for the blog’s feed entries and comments, and a link for WordPress.org. Not sure what to make of this information. It seems like more of a Miscellaneous section.
- About The Photo: Yes, the author took the picture himself and appears to be an enthusiast about photography (and amateur radio). Watson describes when he took the photo–of a brown pelican (so a bird watcher I’m not!), where he took it, and the specific gear he used to take the picture.
I am a latecomer to this website, but I recommend it to technical writers, anyone interested in API documentation, and amateur photography. Docs By Design gives you a plate of Bob Watson’s professional life and and a side dish of the personal. His posts focus on his own experiences in the world of API documentation and his experiments in coding, and I have added this blog to my feed reader.
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