Usability Testing for Print Documentation
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Usability Testing for Print Documentation



Most of my work over the past twenty years has been spent designing and creating communication components which are delivered digitally – Help files, wizards, UI text, knowledge-bases, etc. A recent ...

Most of my work over the past twenty years has been spent designing and creating communication components which are delivered digitally – Help files, wizards, UI text, knowledge-bases, etc. A recent project got me back in touch with the print medium and allowed me to apply usability testing techniques that weren’t on the radar for technical writers a few years ago. Blink Interactive asked me to lead a project for one of their clients – ACT. This is the ACT that develops and administers the test that is so familiar to hundreds of thousands of high school students. The ACT had suspicions that several of their printed publications were not well suited to their student customers. The content used in these printed publications was also used on their web site and they wanted to make sure the students were getting important information related to the test.The session describes the usability testing that led to significant changes in the design of the documentation.



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  • At the Adobe Thought Leadership Day, I talked about the challenges and opportunities of supporting applications that will be displayed on devices with a wide variety of sizes. For the last thirty years or so the designers of personal computing software have had a fairly consistent canvas with which to work. Viewing screens for most computers have been in a range of approximately 10-14 diagonal inches. Screen resolutions in the past twenty years have been fairly static as well. It was possible to deliver our user experience in one presentation flavor. The UI would scale automatically from desktop to laptop and even to netbook. UA designers enjoyed not having to worry very much about how our information would look and feel on different displays.

Usability Testing for Print Documentation Usability Testing for Print Documentation Presentation Transcript

  • Joe Welinske  twitter: welinske
  •  ACT testing service and Blink 16-page “Using Your ACT Results” Findings  (1) students resisted existing text-intensive design  (2) there was information they thought valuable – if they had found it Results  Expository text replaced by infographics  A narrative focused around the student  A more contemporary design
  •  General review of the content and design Interviews with ACT stakeholders Detailed study of customers  Interviews in Seattle, Lincolnshire, IL, and Iowa City  16 students: male and female; public, parochial, and private; sophomores, juniors, and seniors. Review and analyze the information
  •  The focus on the student report when the scores arrived rendered the booklet “invisible.”  The small, dense text and newsprint stock were a deterrent to the students wanting to explore the booklet.Recommendations. The text, layout, andproduction of the booklet should bedesigned to have a more accessible, morevisually interesting style.
  •  A few of the topics were of high interest to most of the students. Others were of no interest. For the topics of interest, they generally wished they had known it was available.Recommendations.Integrate the high interest topics directly intothe student report. –OR-Reorganize with high interest topics up front.Redesign layout to improve usability.
  •  Adjustments to the text, images, page design Elements of high interest moved to front Much text replaced with infographics Text revised to tell a story
  •  Page count reduced from 16 to 8 pages Savings in printing/mailing costs partially diverted to higher-quality paper stock. A more contemporary design through typeface, line-spacing, and gradients. Landscape orientation improves reading with a two-page spread for the content of companion pages.
  •  Applicationof formal user research to printed documentation uniquely illuminates development direction for teenage readers  for stakeholders  for designers/writers