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Write the Docs Podcast episode 33: Simplified user interfaces, with Anton Bollen

by Tom Johnson on Jan 19, 2021
categories: wtd-podcasts writing

Write the Docs Podcast episode 33 is available. In this podcast, we chat with Anton Bollen from Techsmith about using simplified user interfaces with screenshots. A simplified user interface reduces the unimportant elements so the user's attention focuses only on what matters.

Video and audio

Here’s an audio-only version:

For the original post, see WTD Episode 33: Simplified user interfaces, with Anton Bollen.

Episode description

Here’s the description of this episode:

WTD Episode 33: Simplified user interfaces, with Anton Bollen

One of the most challenging and frustrating things about being a tech writer is managing screenshots in your product documentation. How many times have you needed to take complex screenshots of your product and meticulously marked them up with callouts only to be told that a field has changed and you need to do everything again? It’s so frustrating and demoralizing as a writer because it feels like wasted effort. What if there was a way to create screenshots that could withstand the rapid iterations of a product under development while still conveying valuable meaning to your readers. Today we’re joined by Anton Bollen from TechSmith who explains how we can do this using low-detail screenshots, aka simplified user interfaces, that let you focus your users’ attention on just the bits of the interface that matter.


Here’s a sample simplified user interface:

simplified user interface example

In this case, the shortcut commands are removed because they aren’t important for the scenario.

Anton says that predictive eyetracking shows that users will focus on these unimportant areas. Removing them strengthens the focus on what matters.

predictive eyetracking confirms the focus

For more details, see Snagit Tutorial: How to Simplify Your Screenshots.

If you want to join a Slack group focused on this topic, see Simplified Graphics Slack group at This group is open to anyone who is interested in this discussing this topic, or who wants to share examples or who is looking for inspiration: (Link expires on February 18th 2021. Contact [email protected] afterwards for an invite.)


Here are more resources to check out:

About Tom Johnson

Tom Johnson

I'm an API technical writer based in the Seattle area. On this blog, I write about topics related to technical writing and communication — such as software documentation, API documentation, AI, information architecture, content strategy, writing processes, plain language, tech comm careers, and more. Check out my API documentation course if you're looking for more info about documenting APIs. Or see my posts on AI and AI course section for more on the latest in AI and tech comm.

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