Improving User Comprehension and Capability via Digital Remediation of Text Documents

Improving User Comprehension and Capability via Digital Remediation of Text Documents
Tutorial: Hull Cell Analysis screen capture.

Reformatting Documents for the Digital Age

The process of digital remediation involves converting information from a traditional media format to a digital format. This new format contains the same information as the original document but houses it in an entirely different medium. The new medium is a form of hypermedia that contains multiple elements that the user can interact with. In digital remediation, the hypermedia format should feature an improved user-centered design and encourage additional engagement and learning from an audience. The definitive text on digital remediation and hypermediacy is Jay Bolter and Richard Grusin's Remediation: Understanding New Media.

It is easy to see that hypermedia applications are always explicit acts of remediation: they import earlier media into a digital space in order to critique and refashion them.
-Bolter, Grusin; Remediation: Understanding New Media (53)

For this digital remediation project, I chose to merge instructions from several traditional media documents on how to perform a test method called hull cell analysis. The hull cell analysis is used in electroplating tanks to evaluate if the solution chemistry performing as intended. The instructional documents that I remediated have a handful of vague illustrations and the texts assume some background knowledge of its audience. Laboratory personnel who have never seen the hull cell method performed would find it almost impossible to successfully complete the test method themselves.

Pictures Tell the Story

I chose to design and publish to my website two versions of the digital remediation Tutorial: Hull Cell Analysis. Both tutorial versions are multimodal, incorporating photo and text visuals to convey the instructions. Including a significant number of visual elements was crucial to aid the audience with comprehension of the material. Curtis Newbold, describes why photos are critical for conveying information in his article Use Pictures. Always. Why the Picture Superiority Effect (PSE) Matters. The Picture Superiority Effect says that photos are ideal for presenting information because people remember photos better than other mediums like text or audio. The tutorials' text contains only the exact instructions needed to perform the test method. I opted for the minimal text approach when considering my audience’s time restrictions for reading and for interacting with the material.

Tutorial Format Depends on Audience Tendencies

The first version is a video slideshow that I created by combining photos, video clips, and text into a three-minute video. The second version is a photo gallery structured to allow users to progress step-by-step through the analysis. I chose to include two versions because the members of the target audience of this remediation have a large range of comfort with using and learning to use digital formats.

Whether a user prefers the video or step-by-step tutorial will depend on the complexity of the task and the motivations of the user according to this article from the Nielson Norman Group about Videos as Instructional Content: User Behaviors and UX Guidelines. Some users will not find a video format appealing because they will need to pause the video at each step. For those users, the gallery of images will be more user friendly and less frustrating as they can stop scrolling at each photo. Other users will only watch the video once or twice and will remember how to complete all the steps. The latter user will have a better experience with the video tutorial because all the pertinent information can be learned in a shorter time.

The same Nielson Norman Group article also states that people dislike when a video is the only option and that the best approach is to include video and text.. Neither tutorial format is cumbersome in length so users may choose to interact with both versions as they see fit without much time of a time commitment. Below is the video tutorial that I put together.

Video Tutorial: Hull Cell Analysis

Video Tutorial for Hull Cell Analysis

Ashley Williamson

Ashley Williamson

I am working toward a Master of Business in Professional Leadership at MGA and have a Bachelor of Chemistry from Georgia Southern Univ. I work as a chemist with a concentration in electroplating.