Technical Writing



Usability test


Create and execute a usability test for these instructions on how to insert a complex running header. Include a marked up copy of the instructions with specific suggestions for changes.

Instructions to test     the click graphic

Sample final result. This shows the type of running header the instructions explain how to create...with a graphic on one side, a drawn line, and the text. Think of this as another page out of the same bigger book from when you wrote the instructions a few weeks ago.

Turn in

Formal test report.

Here's a book chapter that explains how to write research reports. Granted, this is for writing journal articles, but you'll be using the same format. (note this is an 11 meg file). Your report will only be 5-8 pages.

Test set up

You will have to find 2-3 people to test. (Avoid testing family members. They will not give you realistic data collection experience and that is the primary purpose of this assignment).

They will be sitting at a computer with the text already on the page. Assume they have finished creating the text and now want to add a running header to the document.

Test design

Have the people follow the instructions with no/minimal help from you.

Take copious notes about where they had problems/good points. Think of stuff like:

After they complet the test, go back over it and debrief the person. Ask why they did specific actions. You'll need to be specific and not just say "so, where did you have problems." You need to ask about the problems you observed.

Usability test report

Write up a detailed summary of the results of your test. There will be five sections

Introduction: set up the test

Methods: Write up a detailed test methodology for how you performed the test. It must explain how the test will be conducted, the questions asked.

Results: The data from the text and the data analysis.

Discussion: Your analysis of the test results

Conclusion: The recommendations for improvements and justify those recommendations.


You must have people actually interact with instructions. They must use them. Do not just show them to some people and ask if they think they are usable.

You are not teaching them how to do this....avoid answering specific questions. Many people will not know how to do this and will expect you to walk them through. Don't do it; what type of usability information would you have gathered?

Be sure to watch for people who are ignoring the instructions and completing the task in a way that they know how. Many people feel you are testing them and their abiltiy to complete the task, thus they will do it. Not using the instructions defeats the purpose of the test. Actually, in a bigger test, if you have people who do this too much, you need to disqualify them and not use their data.


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