Last week’s blog post discussed insights that connect web usability testing to the challenges people face with health literacy tasks. Finding health information or using health services are some examples. In web usability testing, end users try to complete standard tasks. Their successes and failures inform changes to the web site.
The idea that people face health-related tasks – some informational, others related to products and services – comes from the field of education, specifically literacy assessment and adult education. The National Assessment of Adult Literacy (NAAL), the benchmark study of the health literacy skills of adults in the U.S., includes various literacy tasks, some health-related, with different degrees of difficulty.
The NAAL tasks are based on an analytical approach to understanding how people interact with print materials that is not common in health communication and health education. An exception has been the work of Dr. Rima Rudd, Harvard School of Public Health. She suggests we consider how and why people use what we provide and then structure the tasks so they can accomplish them with greater ease. For example, think about the number of items in a 4 column, 10 row table. Finding relevant information is not easy if the table is too complex.
A tool developed by educators helps us analyze the structural complexity of some of our documents. The PMOSE-IKIRSCH tool can be used to analyze document formats by counting the elements in lists, charts, graphs, and labels to produce a score, letting us know how easy or complex a document is.
The formula directs our attention to the importance of analyzing and reducing task complexity. Task analysis requires us to stop and consider: what are we asking our intended end users to do with the health information, products or services we create? How complex are the tasks? How likely is it that users can be successful?
Please share your ideas about using a task analysis approach to health literacy work. Have you already tried this approach? How did it work for you?