Part of an Intro to Tech Writing course that I took during Summer 2013 was an assignment on usability testing. I found this assignment particularly insightful because I did not know of the complete process used to ensure that written instructions are user-friendly.
The class was broken into groups and we were to cover any topic of our choosing. One group did their assignment on transferring music from a CD to an iPod; in my group, we wrote instructions on how to create a picture frame made with Popsicle sticks. Along with an instruction manual, we wrote a list of questions for users to answer in regards to the efficiency of the instructions we gave. On presentation day, my group brought the supplies needed for a Popsicle stick picture frame, and we had classmates from outside of our group build a picture frame using our instructions. The usability test also required us to observe the person to see if our instructions caused them to pause in confusion or frustration.
Everyone who we tested agreed that the instructions made it easy to make the frames, but needed to be restructured so that the visual aids appeared below each step as opposed to them all being on the last page. In memo form, we wrote a follow up for our instructor that detailed user responses to our work.