Anne-Marie Chisnall | September 10, 2015
People often ask us ‘Why bother with user-testing a document?’ After all, the document they’re about to publish has been through a process — planning, writing, editing, and proofreading, with multiple sign-off points on its journey.
Your document has been read many times — by people who have contributed to the writing, who know your subject matter, who belong to your organisation, who are committed to your goals, or perhaps all of these.
The most compelling reason for user-testing is to find out what real readers really think about your document. All the versions and sign-offs in the world won’t prepare you for the insights you get from user-testing.
Document user-testing gives insight into how real readers will use your document. The findings from user-testing allow you to improve your document so you can be sure it works as effectively as possible.
One of our favourite types of user-testing is called ‘think-aloud’ testing. It’s a straightforward, economical form of testing. If set up carefully, think-aloud testing quickly gives you lots of useful information. That information can save you time by eliminating or reducing queries, and possibly complaints, later on.
We get real people to comment on key components of a document as they read. They tell us what they’re thinking, out loud. That’s why the method is called ‘think-aloud’.
Some of the features people might comment on are:
We develop a project plan with you and a profile of your intended reader. Then we’ll find people who fit the profile. We usually get more participants than we need, because people are keen to help and to have their opinion count.
We arrange interview times and set up the test. We always give the participants a chance to practise on a sample document first. That way, saying what they think out loud is a bit easier. Our user-testing team always put the participants at ease. And we’re testing the document, not the participant.
We record the results and write a report with recommendations based on what our real readers have said.
Then we can work with you to improve your document based on the findings. After this process, you’ll have a document that does what it needs to, more effectively than before.