What JETdoc does
Good information design is effective information design. To verify effectiveness (sometimes termed ‘readability’, though it’s much more than that), we need to test performance.
Consultation with representative users of medicine leaflets has been recommended in the EU since 1998, and Directive 2004/27/EC made it mandatory. The UK Information Standard requires that ‘you understand your users and you user-test your information’, and sets out clear principles for
how this should be carried out.
What is the best way to test?
Diagnostic usability testing is the widely preferred and recommended method. Originally developed in the early 1990s by the Communication Research Institute of Australia, forerunner of CRI, it is a powerful tool for evaluating usability using relatively small numbers of participants. It is sometimes
referred to as ‘user-testing’ — though that’s misleading, as it tests the information, not the users.
We identify who the users of the information will be, and recruit a representative sample.
We then ask each test participant to interact with the information in
(as far as possible) the context in which it will be used. We observe
how they use it, ask questions and note where they have problems.
We modify the design to address any difficulties, and re-test.
With an experienced tester/interviewer, a representative sample of between
10 and 15 participants will usually identify nearly all of the problems with a design, including all that have a significant impact on usability. As such, it is
a highly cost-effective method of:
validating the design approach being taken
avoiding potentially expensive mistakes.
If possible, testing should begin relatively early in the process of producing the information, so it can inform the design; not as an extra ‘box to be ticked’ once the design is complete.
Since 2000, I have conducted many usability test sessions — for medicine leaflets, consent forms, Instructions for Use (IFU) of devices, and much other healthcare-related information. I continue to learn from each new participant I interview and observe.
My experience has taught me how to avoid many problems in the initial design,
and to identify and address any others that show up.
if applicable, review the information and recommend changes to make it perform better in usability testing
advise on test study design, including the representative sample of participants
produce a detailed protocol, with clearly defined benchmarks
make recommendations to address any problems revealed by the tests
generate a comprehensive report.