Testing Content

by Angela Colter

22 Reader Comments

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  1. Thanks for some great ideas and suggestions, especially some testing tools and protocols I hadn’t heard of!  Three add-on comments/suggestions:

    1) Use an online survey to identify major content comprehension problem-areas you can then focus on (prioritize) during testing. As Content Strategist for a Fortune 500 telecomm company, I ran a survey that first segmented users by primary task purpose (Shop? Order? Learn?) and product interest (Internet? Phone? TV? etc.), then asked (among about a dozen other questions) “What information did you find confusing or hard to understand?”… followed by multiple choice answers. Results were a huge help designing a subsequent usability test that included comprehension of selected pages.

    2) During testing, either have an IA or UX designer join you as an observer or take notes on interaction issues that inevitably come up during content testing – users don’t differentiate between the two disciplines (obviously) – for them it’s all the same experience. So even if asked to read something for comprehension, they’ll see link labels they don’t understand, or comment on colors that are hard to see, etc. – nice tidbits for IA/UX enhancements.

    3) Maybe goes without saying, but when you’re testing comprehension of existing content, you’ll probably also identify missing content – info. your test subjects say the need but can’t find. Specifically ask subjects about that if they don’t bring it up themselves – quick ‘n dirty “content gap analysis”!

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  2. Recently you mentioned this article in a tweet. I’m pretty sure I read it when it was new, but it was worth the time to read it again.

    I especially appreciate the advice for when to use what kind of testing. Working in a setting in which my audience varies among ditch diggers, petrochemical engineers, legislators, “the general public,” and others, it’s hard to know when well-structured copy is readable enough.

    As you’ve noted, usability testing is one way to assess that, but sometimes it’s hard to convince observers that the problem is the copy, not the lack of attractive images. The Cloze test, which I set aside as a novelty when I learned of it years ago, seems well suited to just that situation.

    Next time I run into that, I’ll be sure to give it a try. But I’ll also not wait for those circumstances to arise before I do.

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