Confab | Testing Content

This session from Angela Colter is slam-packed full. Her popular article last year on testing content on A List Apart obviously precedes her, and everyone wants the details.

She’s going to talk about

  • Readability Formulas: Counting the aspects of text that can be counted, and applying a metric. The Flesch-Kincaid formula measures the number of words per sentence and the number of syllables per word to give you a projected grade level of the text.
    Upside: People can understand and act on this metric.

    Downside: You’re only counting what can be counted. Doesn’t explain anything about text clarity. And my favorite downside, it can push you toward really crappy writing.

    Great quote from George Klare: 

    Merely shortening words and sentences to improve readability is like holding a lighted match under a thermometer when you want to make your house warmer.Don’t use a readability formula alone — it’s good as a red flag.

  • Usability Tests: Find out what people actually understand, not what they say they understand. Get the right people in the room. What are the critical issues for the user and for the business? You have to get users to think aloud, but you need to know what the correct answer looks like.Well written tests are critical to evaluating your content properly.Usability testing ends opinion-based arguments.
  • Cloze Tests: These are the content usability tests where you remove every 5th word and see if people can fill in the blanks. Use 125 words or so and 25 or so blanks. If they’re getting 60% or more, your content works. If they’re getting 40% of less, your content is too difficult. In between, you may need revision or more instruction.If you test on the appropriate audience, this tells you clearly if the content is appropriate.