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Usability testing ensures clear info
Make sure instructions can be understood
Consider evaluating educational materials, such as an educational sheet, self-care instructions, or an informational web site, with a usability test instead of a focus group, says Dana Botka, manager of customer communications with the Washington Department of Labor and Industries in Olympia.
According to Botka, usability testing is a tool for determining if an instructional piece follows the rules of clear communication. The communication problems Botka helps solve are similar to those that occur within the health care industry. These problems might include a form on which customers tend to make repeated mistakes that have to be corrected, or a letter providing instructions that people find confusing and thus inundate staff with phone calls.
When designing a piece, make sure the process is centered on the people who will use it, says Botka. To correct a document that is not working, gather subject-matter experts. As a group, gather around a projected laptop screen and develop a clearer, more usable document, she adds.
"The second step is to test the product, which may be a form or letter, with a representative sample of the real people who would use the document in real life," says Botka.
Taking a medical example, Botka explains that by creating user-centered design, postoperative instructions would begin by considering the demographics of the patients who undergo the surgery. It is important to have the typical users clearly in mind when creating the document, says Botka. To make sure the piece is on target, it then would be tested with a representative sample of the typical audience.