Week 27: writing and content testing

Pain au chocolate devoured on a recent trip to ParisPain au chocolate devoured on a recent trip to Paris

The importance of good writing

I read a few things in the past few weeks which reminded me how important good writing, and writers are. In difficult moments, I think society needs writers able to capture the zeitgiest and put words to the struggles and worries of our time. Not sure about others, but I’m worried about the NHS. So when I read these two things below I was thankful that publications are putting their writing talent and serious thought behind the issue:

  1. The Times Health Commission report into the state of health and social care in Britain
  2. The BMJ Commission on the Future of the NHS

Content testing

I also read this interesting piece about a Court of Protection case from December 2023. It raises interesting questions for me about the responsibility of organisations to make sure people are writing content which is being understood and therefore acted upon correctly. It concerns the role of the certificate provider in lasting power of attorney, but I think my question applies much more broadly.

I worry there is a presumption that information written on a page is assumed to be understood in full by someone reading it. If you’re involved in any form of content writing and testing with users - you’ll know this is a tricky issue. It’s incredibly hard to write content that is universally understood. Yes, there are techniques you can use to make this more likely but I do think there are limits.

Do we need to test out content more? Do we need better techniques for measuring understanding and comprehension?

I do know that when we’ve tried using content testing techniques I was left a little wanting at the number of methods available to a user researcher to really test content to any degree of confidence. We’ve tried paraphrase testing with varying degrees of success. Would love to hear of other methods other user researchers have used?

What I watched

Saw All of Us Strangers and just loved it. The acting is stand out. The story is sad, but beautiful. This write-up captures many of my thoughts.