Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Assessing text readability

One of the essentials in user interface design is that the verbiage that you use is simple for users to understand.

An easy way to assess readability is to use the Flesch-Kincaid Grade Level, which is a standard part of Microsoft Word processing. In Word 2010, go to File->Options->Proofing->Show readability statistic and then use the F7 key on the desired text to view this metric.

For the text above, the Flesch-Kincaid Grade Level  is 10.4, which means that it is written for a user with a 10th grade reading level. 

Sunday, November 11, 2012

Human Factors and Disasters

This article describes the work of William Helton and James Head from the University of Canterbury in New Zealand. They compared the differences in cognitive performance of participants before and after a local earthquake. Their findings are summarized below:
  • There was an increase in errors of omission following the earthquake.
  • The participants who reported feeling depressed following the earthquake were slower in responding to the cognitive task.
  • The participants who reported feeling anxious following the earthquake responded faster and made more mistakes in the cognitive task.
  • The researchers concluded that humans are under increased cognitive load following a disaster and are prone to make more errors.

As the nation is recovering from the aftermath of Sandy, it is the right time to think about the role of human factors in disaster management. Special attention needs to be given to the design of training programs and tools that emergency responders receive to perform disaster management.  

Photo credit: The National Guard (Maryland National Guard  Uploaded by Dough4872) via Wikimedia Commons.