Project 3: Usability Study and User Documentation in Multimedia


For Project 3, you will work collaboratively in project teams on a client-based project that teaches you to manage complex writing challenges in practical contexts. You will learn principles of project management, collaboration, document cycling, usability testing and study, and client-based research. You will also learn important principles of professional and ethical communication. The goal will be to produce a user-guide that teaches a critical and (perhaps) complex application of the technology to an interested client. You have the choice of thinking of and contacting clients who may benefit from having such a report, or creating your own client/company scenario. The project will consist of several components; you may add an optional web-based multimedia tutorial for 10 points extra credit.

Component One: Proposal of Problem

As stated above, you must identify a problem with either a client of your choosing or create a company scenario that involves issues with user-friendliness of one of their products. Your documentation/tutorial will solve those issues.  You must write a one-to-two page proposal on the problem your group will be addressing, due Wednesday, April 8.  It will include as an additional page a Gantt Chart detailing your group's deadlines and delegation of tasks, as we will go over in class.  The proposal is worth 10% of your project grade and should include the following:

  • Definition of users and their problem(s). Consider:
    • who is the typical user of the product
    • what are some of the characteristics of the "typical" or "average" user
    • what does the typical user use the product for
    • what problems might they have with it
  • Why a tutorial/documentation would benefit the employer/client
  • How you plan to test usability of your documentation
    • what methods will be used to recruit and select users
    • what problems the student researchers anticipate may occur before, during, and/or after the test sessions
  • Gantt chart showing timelines, deadlines, and delegation of tasks; you can use any software you like. There are various tutorials for making one in Excel at places like YouTube if you choose that route.
  • Memo form as detailed for Project 2


Component Two:  Storyboard

You've conducted research on audience, purpose, and context of use for your documentation. Now you’ll start putting some of that research to work. In this component, you will present storyboards to the class outlining what you're putting in your documentation. You can use PowerPoint slides as your "storyboard" elements. Each storyboard represents one subsection of your documentation, or one step in your tutorial.


Component Three:  User Documentation

After studying a problem of concern to your client dealing with an aspect of their company's product that is either missing or currently flawed regarding user-friendliness, you will create documentation to address that problem. We are using the term "documentation" in its technical writing sense, where it consists of a user guide/tutorial in order to demonstrate to a user how to handle a certain task or tasks.

Length is not rigid; some may be able to write shorter documentation than others.  It depends on the prior knowledge of your audience - how much do you have to explain to them about the product from the get-go?  How much are you trying to cover?

For 10 points extra credit on your overall project grade, you have the option of using Captivate or a similar software to create a multimedia, web-based presentation tutorial.

Component Four: Usability Study and Report

After finishing a draft of the documentation, your group will conduct a usability study field-testing the tutorial. 6-9 test users  (depending on your needs) will attempt to follow your instructions; any flaws in your documentation will become evident. After this study, you will work to correct any issues that have arisen.

The usability testing materials package should include:

  • Pre-test background survey about user experience
  • Observational data sheet to record user reactions to and interactions with the product
  • Follow-up survey or interview questions

You should select 6-9 subjects that:

  • Are from a variety of backgrounds, taking into consideration such factors as gender, race, education, prior knowledge about the product, level of expertise in the product, etc.
  • Do not have a personal connection with any of the team members.

Each test session, including debriefing, should last approximately 30-45 minutes.

Incorporate the information you've learned into your documentation as an appendix. The report in the appendix should be brief; keep it to about 900-1200 words. It should include:

  • Adequate information on the background of the product tested
  • The methods used (user profiles, researcher roles, testing facility, data collection and analysis methods and procedures)
  • Discussion of test results (key findings and recommendations). See CIF (Common Industry Format) guidelines developed by NIST (National Institute of Standards and Testing) and adapt these guidelines for your purposes



Component Five: Individual Elements

  • Keep up the weekly maintenance of your blogs (worth 4% of grade)
  • Turn in a peer evaluation (worth 1% of grade); due May 6

Grading Percentiles:

  • Proposal: 10%
  • Storyboard: 10%
  • Rough Draft: 10%
  • Usability Study and Report 20%
  • Final Draft: 45%
  • Blogs: 4%
  • Peer Evaluation: 1%


Important Dates:

April 8: Proposal due

Apr. 15: Storyboard Due

Apr. 22: Rough Draft of Documentation Due to present in usability testing

May 6: Final Draft of Documentation Due

May 6: Peer Evaluation Due