Reader feedback in text design
Brochures play a significant role in governmental public information provision. Every year many brochures are distributed to inform, instruct or persuade people. These brochures may benefit from a systematic design process, including applied research such as pretesting.
Among communication professionals, the importance of pretesting is practically undisputed. Readers from the target audience are assumed to provide valuable insights into whether a document really works. Organizations therefore increasingly try to include a pretest in the design process of important documents. Various pretest methods have been developed and are being used in practice. However, little is known yet about the merits and restrictions of the available approaches.
This book provides a framework for scholarly research into pretesting, and presents a series of studies into the validity of one particular pretest instrument: a combination of the plus-minus method and a semi-structured questionnaire. This is one of the prevailing pretest approaches in the Dutch public information sector.
The validity of the pretest instrument is assessed in two complementary ways. First, the question is addressed as to whether a revision on the basis of pretest results actually leads to an improvement in the functional quality of brochures. Second, a study is presented in which text and subject-matter experts judge the importance of pretest results. The pretest instrument appears to yield a large amount and a great variety of reader feedback, which in a subsequent revision may contribute to significant improvements in the effectiveness of brochures.