Tips for Increasing Readership: Understanding the User Experience
Before you create, organize and present your publication’s content, it is vital that you first understand your intended user’s experience, advises Robin Sherman, principal of Editorial and Design Services, and associate director and newsletter editor for the American Society of Business Publication Editors. Sherman will help publishing professionals understand how to do just that when he assists in leading the half-day seminar “How Publishers Can Increase Readership” at the Publishing Business Conference & Expo (www.PublishingBusiness.com) on Wed., March 12 at New York’s Marriott Marquis Times Square. Here, he offers four sets of guidelines on how publishers can increase readership by understanding the user experience.
1. A user-centric environment implies:
• Efficiency—can I find what I want easily and quickly?
• Clarity—is the publication’s mission, structure (taxonomy) and labels (common vocabulary) understandable, intuitive, consistent and rational (with reason)?
• Usefulness, Usable—do you save readers time or money, make them more efficient, help them learn how to do something?
2. To document the user experience, you must learn:
• how users and readers think
• what they want and need
• how they do their work
• how they refer to things, the language they use to describe concepts and processes
• how they categorize and group market components
• how they navigate through a publication
• how they search for information
• how they do things, their step-by-step processes
3. It is also important to understand the terminology each of your potential audiences might use. This is called using controlled/shared vocabularies. Among the benefits:
• Users aren’t confused when reading publications because the descriptions use familiar terms.
• Search results returned to users are relevant because the user hasn’t typed an alternate term that is unknown to the search engine.
• The user quickly identifies with the publication, and the publication becomes instantly more credible and authoritative.
• The language can be used as labels that categorize different types of information, whether step-by-step processes or the components of a marketplace.
4. The following will help you to better understand the terminology each of your potential audiences uses:
• Providing a list of terms to users, and asking those users what they think the terms mean, can help. This approach also gives users the opportunity to suggest alternative terms to the ones you’ve employed.
• Focus groups and interviews with real users are helpful.
• Usability testing gives you the opportunity to check whether you’re using the same terms and categories as your users.