When creating technical documents, the most important things to consider are
In other words, why are you producing the document? What should happen as a result of the intended audience reading, using, reacting to, sharing the document you produced? In order to produce a document that will meet the intended purposes, it is critical that the writer understand who will be reading the document. The writer needs a good understanding of the experiences and capabilities of the audience for the document, i.e., education level, experience with the subject, positive/negative attitude toward subject.
For the Zombie Manuals and Corpus Survival Guides that previous 3301 classes produced, we know the audience is people who live in the Coastal Bend area, since that is the focus we chose to produce the manuals. (Look in BB under the "Course Content" tab and you will find pdfs of 3 of the manuals that have been produced so far.) The Call for Proposals (CFP) that the students received for the assignment gives more detailed information about the audience CFP for The Coastal Bend Zombie Survival Guide.
One way to determine if a document meets the audience and purpose goals is by conducting a Usability Test. The information gathered in the Usability Test will help you to see how these chapters could be improved to better meet audience and purpose needs. Then when you write your own chapter you will have developed some strategies to help you create a chapter that meets audience and purpose needs.
Here are the steps you need to follow to complete the Usability Test:
- Review the 3 Manuals (found in BB under the "Course Content" tab) and choose one chapter that you would like to focus on.
- Do a thorough review of the chapter in order to determine how well it was designed with its readers in mind. As you read through the chapter make note of areas that could be better organized, better written and areas where more or different information would make the chapter clearer for the reader
- Think of 5-10 questions that you can ask readers to get their feedback on the elements that you think may need to be improved on. Do not use questions that only require a "yes/no" answer. These types of questions will not give you usable info. Here's what the questions might look like: In the chapter can you find the information about ??? If it was hard to find what made it hard for you to find? On pg. ?? in paragraph 2 (which begins with "blah blah," is the info clear? Which parts do you not understand? Do you think the illustration on pg. ?? helps you to better understand the info in paragraph 1 (which begins "blah blah") on pg. ?? What about the illustration does not work?
- Write a script that you can give to the readers who will do your usability test. It should include a brief introduction, explaining to the reader what you are trying to do and the purpose for doing the test. Next you will list the questions, leaving 5 spaces after each question for the reader to input comments. Then end with a brief thank you to let the reader know you appreciate their completing the usability test for you.
- Decide whether you want to conduct the test as hard copy or online. If you choose hard copy, you will need to print a copy of the chapter (or have it available for the reader to view online). Then ask the reader to write their answers on a copy of your script with the questions. If you do the test online, then you will need to send an email with the text of your script and the chapter as an attachment. Ask the readers to answer the questions and return in an email to you.
- You will need to have at least six readers complete the test. The more readers you can get, the better. It's better to get readers who are not in our class as you will probably get better information that way.
- From the info you gather, write a report on the results of your test. Here are sample reports you can use as models:
- Completely explains what was done to conduct the usability test (no unanswered questions).
- Gives reader a good grasp of what the issues are and what possible solutions exist.
- Provides an overview of findings and not just a list that the reader has to wade through.