COURSE 1: Document Design & Usability 101

See the CALENDAR for the timetable of this Course.

This course covers design of content plus Usability 101 and Accessibility Basics.

Document design is the practice of structuring text, images and other elements so that the message of the document is conveyed, and the reader can easily accomplish any action or instruction required.

Seems like a simple activity for anyone? Lots of people are overwhelmed when asked to edit a document, and don’t have good intuitions about the relationships between text and images. Linguists come prepared to edit for busy, distracted readers, and can employ methods to evaluate whether the newly structured document is indeed easier to read and use.

This course offers a qualitative research activity, in the style of user research recommended by the Handbook of Usability Testing, 2nd edition.

Class project:  We will be revising the California Olive Oil Council’s (COOC) Seal Certification Kit for extra virgin olive oil, as shown on its website  From personal experience and discussions with other producers, the instructor recognizes the Kit is more complicated and repetitious than it needs to be. It’s ripe for revision.

This course will emphasize teamwork as we prioritize what to change. Students will have an opportunity to create a one-page research proposal, interview scripts, and a screener for study participants. The teams will analyze results of interviews, revise a document that has consequences for the product and income of the COOC members, and review the resulting document through additional interviews with producers.

  • Week 1 will focus on the document and possible directions for revision. We’ll learn about Plain Language, consider our audiences, and learn about the steps in a usability test. We’ll invite the current users of this document to help us review the document (through interviews/observations). We will consider other certifications for food, such as non-GMO and Kosher designations to determine what amount of effort each of those requires compared to the COOC Seal Certification Kit.
  • During Week 2, students will create recommendations for a revised document, based on  analysis of the sessions from Week 1, and insights from other certifications. We want to confirm that our revised version is less confusing and repetitious, saves time for producers, or reduces the staff support, and doesn’t introduce new difficulties.
  • Week 3 is left to create a presentation of our findings and recommendations for the key stakeholders of this research, the Board of Directors of the COOC. And we’ll also focus on how students can create individual portfolio pieces that represent their contributions and learnings from this engagement. We’ll discuss how the methods we used in this brief project can be adapted and expanded for other kinds of documents and products.

Besides revising the Seal Certification Kit, our recommendations may impact the processes defined in the document. What effect will any new or changed process have on staff? On partners involved with the certification process? On the small producers? On the larger producers?

For a portfolio project, each person in the course can choose which of these artifacts shows off their contribution to the work, or may create a different theme as their insight about the work, the context and the people involved.

Topics and artifacts:

  • Plain language, structured text, interplay of images & words
  • Audience for the document
  • Competitive analysis
    • Kosher certification
    • non-GMO certification
  • Usability testing protocol
    • 1 pager for stakeholders and team
    • Recruiting screener
    • Schedule (remote? In person?)
    • How much to cover in one test?
      • Interview script (with existing Kit)
      • Interview script (with revised Kit)
  • Observations (aka the Study)
    • Interviewer ≠ Notetaker, when possible
    • Notetaking
      • Capture behavior (including prosody, evaluative or affective gesture)
      • Key hypotheses…
    • How many audiences?
      • Veterans vs Newbies?
      • Large Co vs Solo ops?
    • How many participants? (cf. Nielsen’s 5 + pilot)
  • Qualitative analysis & report
    • Slide deck of findings and recommendations
  • Client communication & management
    • Who is the audience for the report and responsible to make change based on findings?
    • How much contact and by whom?
    • Presentation of findings & recommendations
  • Updated versions of document(s)
    • Communicate change to audience(s)
  • Portfolio:  What do you put in your portfolio? How to recognize an individual’s role/responsibilities as well as team’s accomplishments? How does each person talk about their contributions?

Instructor Bio:

The Document Design course is taught by Dr. Nancy Frishberg.

Nancy Frishberg (she/her) has been a linguist in industry, since 1985. She currently calls herself a User Experience (UX) Strategist and Researcher. Frishberg has combined her expertise in language and human cognition with a longstanding interest in technology, working at IBM, Apple, Sun Microsystems and several consulting firms on behalf of clients in education, health and wellness, digital media, financial services, and civic design.

Most recently, she has been coaching teams, typically those seeking to learn more about UX methods and operations, and individuals, especially career changers, exploring new options for work.

She earned all her degrees in linguistics: AB (with honors) at University of California, Berkeley, the MA and PhD at University of California, San Diego. Her first career, in academia, focused on sign languages of Deaf people. She authored the primary reference text for training sign language interpreters, Interpreting: An Introduction, still in print after 35 years. This written examination for the US Registry of Interpreters for the Deaf to certify interpreters is based on this book.

Frishberg currently lives in rural Livermore, CA, on a ranch where they grow olives and produce EVOO.

Websites: (UX. and language) (extra virgin olive oil).