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Testing Concept

Nobody needs to convince you that it’s important to test your website’s design and interaction with the people who will use it, right? But if that’s all you do, you’re missing out on feedback about the most important part of your site: the content. Whether the purpose of your site is to convince people to do something, to buy something, or simply to inform, testing only whether they can find information or complete transactions is a missed opportunity: Is the content appropriate for the audience? Can they read and understand what you’ve written? A tale of two audiences Consider a health information site with two sets of fact sheets: A simplified version for the lay audience and a technical version for physicians. During testing, a physician participant reading the technical version stopped to say, “Look. I have five minutes in between patients to get the gist of this information. I’m not conducting research on the topic, I just want to learn enough to talk to my patients about it. If I can’t figure it out quickly, I can’t use it.” We’d made some incorrect assumptions about each audience’s needs and we would have missed this important revelation had we not tested the content. You’re doing it wrong Have you ever asked a user the following questions about your content? How did you like that information? Did you understand what you read? It’s tempting to ask these questions, but they won’t help you assess whether your content is appropriate for your audience. The “like” question is popular—particularly in market research—but it’s irrelevant in design research because whether you like something has little to do with whether you understand it or will use it. Dan Formosa provides a great explanation about why you should avoid asking people what they like during user research. For what’s wrong with the “understand” question, it helps to know a little bit about how people read.