The most difficult part of the layout & design process for my family history project was deciding what my book would look like. For inspiration, I viewed numerous family history books on the shelves at the Victoria Genealogical Society. I also did a Google search for electronic versions of genealogy books that were available online to use as examples. I made notes and took screenshots of the things I liked and gradually a plan formed in my mind and I knew what I wanted. 

I envisioned my relatives sitting the book on their laps and flipping through it the way we did as children with my parents’ photo albums — the horizontal ones with photos inserted using glue-on corners. A horizontal layout would also allow larger display of documents such as census reports and birth, death and marriage certifications, which all tend to be wide. 

I’d heard there were online services that would produce a book, so I reviewed the sites and their options (and prices). I was disappointed by the choices and the costs. First, the layout options weren’t what I wanted. Second, for the amount of content I had, I suspected the book could be around 100 pages. A book that size on the sites I visited would cost about $100 for each copy — ouch! Also, based on the time it was taking to do the book, printing and delivery from the online service would not be completed in the time I had left. I knew I could do it in time and for far less money if I did all the work myself and had it printed locally.  

Keeping the costs low meant sticking with standardized paper and avoiding bleeds. ‘Bleeds’ are images that go right to the edge of the paper, which requires special printing and trimming. To save money, bleeds and non-standard paper were out. 

But from previous projects, I knew that to get the feel of a horizontal photo album, all I had to do was use a landscape layout of 8 ½ x 11 pages (technically 11 x 8 ½). However, I also knew that with a wide format like that, the pages should be two columns (if not three). Why? Because one wide column is difficult to read. Every time a reader moves his or her head, there is a loss of flow. Even having to shift one’s eyes can cause mental distraction (and eventually fatigue). The reason newspapers and magazines have text in narrow columns is to avoid readers having to move their heads to finish a line. These are things I learned in the course of my career over many years and could apply to my family history book.