Testing messages and materials throughout the development process is important. You learn what your audience finds most appealing, understandable, and useful, such as which topics are the most important to them, what they already know, the words and numbers most familiar to them, and the images and designs they prefer.

A Diabetic listening to a community health worker familiar with the necessary diet needed to maintain control over the detrimental effects of this disease.

Concept testing will help save your program time and money because it will identify which messages work best with intended audiences.

Health Literacy Insights for Audience Testing

You should pay attention to health literacy issues when testing. Here are several health literacy insights for you to consider when doing message and material testing:

  • Do background research on your audience’s literacy and numeracy skills
  • Partner with adult literacy groups to help recruit readers with weak skills
  • Read testing materials and directions aloud to help people with weak skills
  • Create tasks for people to do with the information during the sessions and focus on how useful the information is to complete the tasks
  • Separate weak and average readers into different testing groups so that weak readers aren’t embarrassed or overpowered by others in the group

Resources for Testing Messages and Materials

How to Test the Usability of Documentsexternal icon, May 2020
UX Matters
In this article, two usability consultants describe three ways to test the usability of documents and when to choose each method.

NIH National Cancer Institute “Pink Book” – Making Health Communication Programs Workpdf iconexternal icon
National Cancer Institute
This book describes a practical approach for planning and implementing health communication efforts.It covers a range of topics, from planning and strategy development, to pretesting materials, to implementing the campaign, to evaluation.

Participatory Materials Developmentexternal icon
Harvard School of Public Health
The Health Literacy Studies group from the Harvard School of Public Health examines literacy-related barriers to a variety of health services and care.Here you will find information on how to develop materials with input from the intended audience, as well as examples of materials developed through a participatory process.

Toolkit for Making Written Material Clear and Effectiveexternal icon
Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services
The Toolkit for Making Written Material Clear and Effective is a health literacy resource from the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS). This 11-part Toolkit provides a detailed and comprehensive set of tools to help you make written material in printed formats easier for people to read, understand, and use.

Resources Specific to Usability Testing of Digital Products

Sensibleexternal icon
A web usability consultant provides downloadable scripts for usability testing of websites and mobile apps, checklists, instructions for test observers, and more.

Usability.govexternal icon
The Digital.gov Teamexternal icon in the U.S. General Services Administration (GSA) Technology Transformation Service manages Usabilty.gov.

  • On their What & Why pageexternal icon, they provide the basics of user experience (UX). UX focuses on having a deep understanding of users, what they need, what they value, their abilities, and also their limitations.
  • On their Methods pageexternal icon, they provide resources on recruiting usability test participants, conducting website usability testing, reporting usability test results, and more.


Page last reviewed: January 12, 2021