User testing is a must to increase the chance that a document is read, understood and acted on. (A document could be a printed process, fact sheet or report, or it could be web text.)
Effective business documents have an impact on the thinking, attitudes or behaviour of readers. If they don’t, the investment in researching, writing and reviewing is all wasted. Writing with care is vital; but care in crafting the document doesn’t guarantee success. Even well organised, plainly written documents can fail to achieve their purpose.
Testing documents with users before they are released is the best way to improve the likelihood of success. And it’s not difficult or expensive.
There are multiple ways to test a document, but one of the simplest is to design a set of questions to be used in a structured interview. Give the test subject the document or website to read. Then, ask them questions exploring what they understand and what they would do next.
You can get helpful insights with just a handful of tests.
Testing with real users, or people who represent real users, is far more powerful than passing the text around the office for your colleagues to review. Only real users have the perspectives and the constraints needed for a valid test.
User testing is required for a document to display the PlainLanguagePro GOLD trademark.
There is never enough time or money to do it right, but there is always enough time and money to do it again.