The Influence of Visual Elements in Technical Documentation

Bradley Nice
4 min readFeb 9, 2024

by Bradley Nice, Content Manager at ClickHelp — all-in-one help authoring tool

It may sound like a paradox, but reading technical documentation may be as hard as writing it. Readers often feel “information overload” when having to deal with a long and complex technical text. And the condition after finishing reading can often be described as “mental exhaustion.” This means that readers may become tired, disinterested, or overwhelmed when faced with a large amount of text.

Another collocation that describes the tiredness of readers is “reader fatigue.” This can occur when readers have to read a text that is hard to comprehend without visual breaks or engaging elements to hold their attention.

This blog is about adding visuals to technical documents to help readers alleviate reader fatigue and make the content more digestible.

How Visuals in Technical Documents Can Combat Reader Fatigue?

Visuals in technical documents can be used to keep readers engaged and focused. They can do it in several ways:

  • Break up the text. Visuals such as diagrams, charts, graphs, and images can break up long blocks of text, making the content more visually appealing and easier to digest. This can help prevent readers from feeling overwhelmed or fatigued.
  • Provide context. Visuals can help provide context and clarify complex information, making it easier for readers to understand the key points of the text. A bright example of such an application of visuals is pictorial instructions widely used in medicine, for example.
  • Increase retention. Visuals can help readers retain information better than text alone. By incorporating visuals, readers are more likely to remember key concepts and details from the document, reducing the risk of reader fatigue from having to re-read or process the information multiple times.
  • Enhance engagement. Visuals can make technical documents more engaging and interesting for readers. By including visuals that are relevant and appealing, readers are more likely to stay focused and interested in the content, reducing the likelihood of experiencing reader fatigue.

This is actually how including visuals in technical documents can enhance the overall readability and effectiveness of the document and prevent information overload.

Most Popular Types of Visuals Used in Technical Document Design

Visuals play a crucial role in technical document design as they help to convey complex information in a more understandable way. Here are some examples of visuals that can be included in technical documentation:

  • Diagrams. Diagrams are great for illustrating processes, structures, and relationships. They can help readers visualize how different elements are connected and work together.
  • Charts and graphs. Charts and graphs are useful for presenting numerical data in a more digestible format. They can help readers make sense of large amounts of data and identify trends and patterns.
  • Tables. Tables are often used to present data in a structured and organized manner. They can be used to compare different variables or to present detailed information in a concise format.
  • Flowcharts. Flowcharts are useful for illustrating the flow of a process or procedure. They can break down complex steps into a series of simple, easy-to-follow instructions.
  • Infographics. Infographics combine text, images, and graphics to present information in a visually engaging way. They can help readers quickly grasp key points and concepts.

Including visuals in technical documents can enhance the overall readability and effectiveness of the document. Visuals should be clear, concise, and relevant to the content. It’s important to use visuals strategically and thoughtfully to support and enhance the text, rather than simply for decoration.

Impact of Incorporating Visual Elements into Technical Documentation

Incorporating visual elements into technical documentation can have several positive impacts on the overall effectiveness and usability of the documents. Some of the key impacts include:

  • Clarity and understanding. Visual elements like diagrams, charts, graphs, and images can help to clarify complex technical concepts and make the information more understandable for the audience. They can provide a visual representation of information that is easier to grasp and retain than text alone.
  • Accessibility. Visual elements can help to make technical documentation more accessible for readers with different learning styles and preferences. For example, visual learners may find it easier to understand and retain information that is presented visually rather than in text form.
  • Efficiency. Visual elements can help to convey information more quickly and efficiently than text alone. They can provide a quick overview of complex concepts, processes, or relationships, saving the reader time and effort in understanding the information.
  • Professionalism. Incorporating visual elements into technical documentation can make the documents look more polished and professional. Well-designed visuals can enhance the overall presentation of the information and create a more positive impression of the content.

Overall, incorporating visual elements into technical documentation can help to improve the clarity, engagement, accessibility, efficiency, and professionalism of the documents, ultimately enhancing the overall effectiveness of the communication.


Technical writers need to understand the psychology of reading and perceiving visuals in a technical text. This will help writers use visuals as a method of cognitive load management. By leveraging this method, tech writers can enhance their writing skills while the audience can increase their understanding and interpretation of technical texts and effectively use complex information.

Happy documenting!

Bradley Nice, Content Manager at — best online documentation tool for SaaS vendors



Bradley Nice

Content Manager at 👈. I write about web design, web development and technical writing. Follow me on Twitter and Facebook