Writing to Present Findings
from a Usability Test*
Or, what the heck are tools and apps?
What is it?
will be doing an “individual walkthrough”
of TWO digital tools or apps that may be
useful for technical writers.
You may also use to tools or apps that are
useful in your field.
But Ari …
what do you mean by a tool or app?
I’m glad you asked!
Tools: Digital tools, often referred to as Web
2.0 technology. They are often web-based.
Apps: Apps are free or purchased
technology that perform a certain function.
These are often downloaded but may also
What to Choose
digital tools or apps that can be
Often, these are similar in scope or function.
I bet you want examples, huh?
Loads of them.
Examples: Presentations &
Examples: Infographics and
vs. free online mapping
Google Maps vs. Yahoo Maps
Any other digital tools you may use.
Skype vs. Facebook chat vs.
How to Get Started
Don’t know where to start? Follow these steps.
Usability Test: Step 1
your tools. It’s easiest if you don’t
have expert-level knowledge of these
Decide on a set of tasks you will do using
For example, if you are comparing
Facebook and Twitter, your tasks might be
signing up, logging in, posting a status,
replying to a status, etc.
Usability Test: Step 2
Do each task for each app.
Take detailed notes as you do the tasks – this
will make writing your paper so much easier!
Test the affordances (those things that work
well) and constraints (those things that don’t
work well of the limitations of the tool).
Pay attention to any problems you encounter
when trying to use the product. Be sure to
Usability Test: Step 3
up your findings in a White Paper
format. About 1000 words.
Potential users of the tools or apps you test.
Imagine that you have been asked to write
a white paper about your test for
Technology Today, an internet site
dedicated to offering information about
the latest technology.
White Paper Format
How is it supposed to look?
In general, it should follow this
Format: Title Page
Page: Yes, there needs to be a title
Be specific and apply design features
to make the title page interesting to
the introduction creates a
permanent record of what was tested,
why, and for whom.
Be specific in describing the products and
typical users of these products.
the specific tasks you did when
using each product. Consider using a list
State when you did the test, where, and
anything else that helps a reader
understand the testing methods you used
such as type of computer (laptop,
Be very specific!
Results Section (Part 1)
a decision about how best to
organize your results.
Use subheadings in this section to help
readers navigate and revisit information.
Use elements of excellent design.
Results Section (Part 2)
the findings of the test by
explaining the affordances and
constraints of the tasks you completed.
may want to use graphics such as
screen shots to illustrate claims you are
Results Section (Part 3)
you experienced problems when
working with a product that proved to be
inconvenient, such as an app crashing
your browser, report those problems by
describing what happened.
Be specific, describing the
Results Section (Part 4)
You may also want to determine the scope and
severity of a problem and/or constraint and
provide readers with a means of understanding
these by using a rating scale such as:
Unusable: the user cannot or will not perform the
Severe: the user’s attempt to perform the task is
Moderate: the user can perform the task with
moderate effort to overcome the problem.
Irritant: the problem is cosmetic, or does not
present significant difficulty in the user’s effort to
perform the task.
Results Section (Part 5)
determine what part of the
product the error affects. It may affect
only one part of the product (local
problems), several parts, but not all, of the
product (semi-local or semi-global
problems), or the entire product (global
recommendations to potential users
of the product.
Consider if it is useful to explain which
product might be best for a novice vs. a
product for a more experienced user.