Question 1 :
Case 13: Evaluating a Technical Document
You are a Landscape Architecture major, working part-time for the city water-conservation office in Albuquerque, New Mexico. Your supervisor is Lauren Martinez, assistant conservation officer. You know from working in the office for over six months that water is scarce in this part of the country, and that lawn irrigation is a major concern of the water-conservation office.
“We are trying our best to get through to homeowners,” Lauren tells you, “but they just keep planting lawns and gardens that require too much water for this desert climate.”
“How are you trying to convince them?”
“We came out with this guide a while back.” Lauren hands you a booklet (Document 13.1). “At the time, we printed hundreds of these and gave them away in local garden stores, but with recent cutbacks, we can’t afford to print them anymore. We are now just linking to the booklet from the home page of the city’s website.”
“Seems like a great resource. Does it work?” you ask.
“That’s the problem,” Lauren says. “We don’t know. And that’s why I need your help. We’ve recently been given a small budget to get this document evaluated. We want to make sure it’s doing what we need it to do, now that it is online only. Once we have it evaluated, we’ll make the necessary improvements.”
“Great idea. What do you need me to do?”
“I want you to come up with a list of five evaluators—people who would be good reviewers of the document. I don’t need actual names, just types of people who would give us a good mix of evaluations.”
“Sure,” you say.
“I also want you to come up with a list of guidelines that the evaluators should consider as they examine the document. You know what our goals are.”
“To get people to plant drought-tolerant landscapes.”
“Right. We want this document to help them do just that, in the most user-friendly way possible.”
“So, are we converting the PDF booklet into a website?”
“If that’s what the evaluators recommend, then that’s what we’ll do.”
Source: The City of Albuquerque, Water Conservation Office: http://www.ose.state.nm.us/Pub/Brochures/htx_lo_res.pdf.
Once you’ve familiarized yourself with the case background and the document, complete the assignment below. Your instructor will tell you how he or she would like you to submit your work.
1. Consider the goals of this study. What is the purpose of the document and who is the primary audience for it? Answering these questions will help you come up with a list of potential evaluators for the document. Present this list, along with your reasoning, in a memo to Lauren Martinez.
2. Study Document 13.1, and return to the advice for establishing evaluation guidelines (see Establishing Evaluation Guidelines). What are the main aspects of this document that you think should be evaluated? What do you want users to be able to achieve, and how can you find out whether the document is doing what it is supposed to do? Create a set of between 8 and 10 guidelines for your evaluators to consider as they examine the document.
Reflecting on Your Work
1. How did you determine how to target your evaluators? Did you consider homeowners? Professional gardeners? Conservation experts?
2. How did you determine the potential problems with the document? Did the categories of usability problems listed in the text help you create guidelines? Which categories were most and least relevant? Why?
Textual Fairy Tale:
Design a document (no illustrations/photos!) which successfully portrays the emotional content of the story of Cindrella. Think about elements like fonts, text size, text color, etc.