Course Overview

3 Credits, Fall 2017
Class Location: Tompkins Hall G117
Prerequisite: ENG 517 Advanced Technical Writing, Editing and Document Design


This course aims to examine usability testing of various types of technical communications, including documents, web sites, instructions, and non-instructional texts. We will discuss the nature of design and usability and how they interact to make communication easy or difficult to use for particular audiences.

We will examine a variety of testing methods, including inquiry, inspection, and lab-based testing. We will discuss the trade-offs among these various types of tests and will analyze which ones are most appropriate for various rhetorical and developmental situations. You will learn multiple methods for conducting tests when time and funding preclude lab-based testing.

You will conduct several tests and studies. You will learn all of the essential parts of the testing process, including planning, getting test subjects, preparing test materials, conducting the test, analyzing the data you collect, and reporting on results and recommendations. You will read extensively in several texts and online sources concerning the theories and concepts behind usability testing and the pragmatic practices that inform it.

Learning Outcomes

After this class, you will be familiar with:

  • usability theories
  • types of usability tests
  • usability and delivery

Some of the activities we will focus on include:

  • different types of usability tests
  • balancing types of tests with project constraints
  • collaborative work

After this class, you will have produced:

  • a significant body of knowledge and a new skill set to add to your portfolio.
  • several kinds of usability studies
  • written reports for your results

Texts (required):

I encourage you to obtain your own copies of our books, however, many of them are also available through our NCSU library course reserve.