Re: Usability studies and online help

Subject: Re: Usability studies and online help
From: "Phillip St. James" <saint0 -at- verizon -dot- net>
To: "TECHWR-L" <techwr-l -at- lists -dot- techwr-l -dot- com>
Date: Mon, 13 Jun 2005 22:00:32 -0700

On behalf of myself as one who has been a part of usability studies, Steven, I wonder whether you are looking for answers that may not really exist. In a way, usability studies, even when done well by experts from the fields of psychology and sociology, can be a bit dicey. I think that in usability studies, you're looking at the responses of one "jury" and then hoping to or expecting to accurately extrapolate toward useful generalizations about the quality and direction of your work and toehrs who fit the profile of that usability "jury".

That said, it's good to see or determine whether your customer or audience is being served well. How you do that is where subjective evaluation comes in...

In my own experience of working alongside NASA scientists and technicians who were measuring an extensive set of electrical and physical responses as well as participating in much less rigorous tests of focus groups for major corporations, I cannot in all honesty tell you that this is efficacious or widely beneficial.

Most tech writers must change places with the reader or user. Meaning, we must put ourselves in their place as best we can and provide essential, organized and hopefully memorable information.

Again, I wonder if documentation usability studies, even when done by top notch experts, are practically helpful to tech writers who don't and/or won't have that luxury and its time slot at their disposal. I'm looking for academic corroboration that shows that such studies can improve writing in this area. Is there any?

Menlo Park, CA


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Usability studies and online help: From: Steven Brown

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