One of the key writing principles we teach is to think of the reader. We give readers the information we think they want to know. But how do we know we’re right? We recommend document user-testing.
The Office for Financial Literacy and Retirement Income recently wrote a booklet for residents of the earthquake-affected Red Zone in Christchurch. This booklet presents the financial, legal, and insurance information residents need to make decisions about their houses.
Before the Commission published the booklet, they went to Christchurch. They showed the booklet to a group of Red Zone residents and asked them if it was easy to read, and if the information was useful. Changes were made to the content and layout of the booklet.
As a result, Christchurch Red Zone residents have information and a process that takes some of the stress out of a difficult time in their lives.
We encourage our clients to think about running their own user-testing projects. We’ve conducted two lunchtime seminars on document user-testing. Fifty people came to each session, so we can see that our clients are concerned about their readers.
Document user-testing tells you what your readers understand. It helps you to:
Manufacturers have been testing their products for years. Testing our documents makes good business sense — to make sure we give readers what they want.