In the corporate world people routinely spend a disproportionate amount of time producing documents that look good on paper. While we’re living in a world of document management systems that record changes, review and approval of documents we’re also trying to follow a paradigm that says the master document is the signed hard copy version and that has to look good.
If you think of the structure of the typical corporate document (say a report) it comprises:
- Front Cover
- List of authors and approvals
- Distribution list
- List of changes
- Table of contents
- Reference documents
- The actual document
- Headers and footers with page numbers and revisions and protective markings.
I appreciate that for a document that’s for delivery to a customer it may be necessary to prepare something that looks good printed, but a lot of documents are generated for use within organisations and distributed electronically and yet the ‘pages’ paradigm still rules.
The challenge is to ask what do we really need from our documents? Does it need to have headers and footers, does it need a list of names on the front cover and does it still need to look like paper, with black text on a white background, grouped into sections and simulating real pages?