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HOT Evaluation: Cognitive Burdens (HTML)

Hot Evaluation: Cognitive Burdens (Word)

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5. Cognitive Burdens

Q: What's a Heuristic Online Text Evaluation?

A. An evaluation measures how well your text online meets the guidelines, or heuristics, we have compiled from research in usability, readability, attention, and design, and from experienced professionals in the field.

Q: What's the point of using an evaluation instrument?

A: You can determine the extent to which the text of your text makes sense to your visitors.

Q: Why evaluate the text for cognitive burdens?

A: If people can succeed in understanding what you say, they may understand, and act.  When your text is tangled, you make them think too much about gnarly issues like subjects, verbs, interpretation, and grammar. To avoid that fate, we go for clarity.

Q: How do we achieve text that requires very little thought to grasp?

A: We have several proven tests of clarity.  In general, though, we know that your text will be easy to follow if:

  • Most sentences have one main clause, and no subordinate clauses.

  • There are very few nouns made up to replace perfectly good verbs or adjectives..

  • There are no strings of three or more nouns all in a row.

  • There are no ambiguous phrases that the reader must ponder.

  • The agent--the person or thing carrying out the action--appears as the subject of the sentence.

  • All statements are positive.

  • Scrolling is kept to a minimum.

  • Long documents, even if broken up into a series of short pages also appear on a single page, or in a single file, for saving or printing.

Q: Why do you call these checklists a heuristic?

A: Each guideline provides a method for a writer to follow, or a heuristic. If the writer has followed the guidelines well, the text scores high.

Q: How do we perform the evaluation?

A: Here’s how to perform a Heuristic Online Text (HOT) evaluation.

1. Download and save the file with a name that includes

  • The site you are analyzing

  • The aspect you are evaluating (brevity, in this case)

  • Initials

  • A period

  • A suffix indicating the file type (doc for Word files, htm for HTML files)

Examples: ibmbrevityjp.doc, yahoobrevityds.htm

2. Go to the site, and locate a fairly typical page that has several paragraphs of running text.

Running text is actual content, not labels, menu items, or link descriptions.

3. In the file, type the subject of the page, under Sample #1, below.

The subject appears in the title bar of the window (not including ads for your browser) or in the major heading at the top of the page. Use whichever best articulates what the page is about.

4. Copy the paragraph and paste it into this file after the subject.

5. Return to the page and copy the URL for that page, then paste that into this file, in the line right after the paragraph.

The URL is the address of the page.

6. Type today’s date on the next line, to show when you collected the sample.

7. Repeat this process, collecting paragraphs from at least 5 pages.

If possible, find pages with different kinds of content. Also, for consistency, pick the same number paragraph on each page; for instance, pick the second paragraph on every page.

Tip: You may want to print out your samples, so you can look at their text on paper as you work onscreen.

8. Apply the HOT Evaluation to the text samples you have collected, filling out the evaluation form.

If a strategy or tactic seems irrelevant, omit it from your evaluation.  Note that this will change the total possible points.


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