Designing User-Friendly (Spanish) Lessons

Designing User-Friendly (Spanish) Lessons
Photo by Cottonbro studio/UCD

Tasked with doing a user-centered analysis for a technical writing course, I decided to do it for a video module for conjugating -ar Spanish verbs in the present tense that I had once created for yet another course. Doing a user-centered analysis of one of your own works is not much different from doing one on someone else’s.


A module on the conjugation of -ar Spanish verbs in the present tense.

A user-centered design approach involves a series of steps. First, you will want to determine who the primary user(s) of your design will be. After determining the intended user of your design, you will next want to decide what problem you would like your design to solve for them or, according to Tony Ho Tran, asking, "What are my users' problems." After determining what problem you will help your users solve, you will next have to decide the most productive and efficient plan to help them solve it.

To decide upon the best plan to help your users solve their problem, you will want to conduct some level of research about your user(s) to get informed about the types of tasks they either would or should carry out to accomplish the intended goal. Next, you will then formulate your design in ways that make it more conducive to use by your specific user group. This last step is an iterative one. As users and potential resources change, so too should your design.

A diagram of the User-Centered Design Process
A diagram of the User-Centered Design Process/Lousco Services Incorporated

User-centered design does not end with the design of the original product. The user-centered design process informs us that we must continually evaluate our user group as well as their engagement with our design to produce an error-free design which results in the least amount of strain and the highest amount of success for our users.

Part 1: User-Centered Analysis

1. The target audience for the video module that I created on the conjugation of -ar verbs in the present tense are prospective or actual students of Spanish. They are adults who are at least eighteen years old. They are either interested in being self-taught Spanish learners or are currently enrolled in an organized Spanish class and seeking additional resources.

2. I surveyed students who were willing to take part in the module. In addition to assessing the efficacy of the module, the survey was also intended to glean information about possible improvements needed for the module.

The survey was completed by emailing a link to several potential volunteers. These volunteers were made up of graduate students. Participants were asked to watch the module and complete the included activities. The module demands approximately 15-30 minutes to complete entirely.

A total of two volunteers agreed to participate in this pilot test of the module. While one rated the benefit of the module a 5 out of 5, the second ranked their benefit from the module as a 1 out of 5. I cannot report any changes that have been made as a result of this process. The same tester who reported that their noted benefit from the module was a 1 out of 5, also noted that nothing was missing from the module.

3. Though I tested the module specifically on graduate students, I do not expect that the primary users for my module would be representative of this demographic. I expect that the typical user of this module will fall into one of two categories:

a. A young adult enrolled in an undergraduate Spanish course. This person likely either lives at home with his or her parents or with roommates. He or she is not a Spanish major; they are likely enrolled in Spanish to fulfill a liberal arts requirement. They find the Spanish classroom instruction to be lacking and are seeking additional resources which might offer them more insight. They are likely tech savvy but do not prefer foreign languages as a discipline. They find that their organized course moves too quickly for them and does not offer sufficient practice.

b. An adult of likely middle or late age who studied Spanish during either their secondary or post-secondary education. They would like to re-acquaint themselves with the Spanish language or possibly increase their learning.

Part 2: Implementation of User-Centered Design Principles

1. I am satisfied with the content and structure of the module. The information is organized logically. Each page includes clear headings. No subheadings or bullet points were required for the completion of this document.

2. The video module has been posted on a blog for graduate writing students for the past four days. No difficulties have been reported by users. Only a single user has played the module thus far and his comments were as follows:

That was great! Your presentation was clear and effective. I believe that it could be used for elementary all the way up to undergraduate level students. Based on the work of Carol Ann Tomlinson, you successfully differentiated the content and provided ongoing assessment. Though I have spent many years studying Spanish, I feel as though I would learn quite well from your interactive presentation if I were new to the language.

3. Based upon my own personal observations, I have decided that I will attach downloadable PDF documents of all the documents featured in the video. This will make the entire module more accessible for the users.

 4. To make the module more accessible, I have decided to add optional closed captioning to assist hard-of-hearing learners.

 5. To make the video module more user centered, I will likely add a comments section to address user questions concerning any of the information featured in the module.

While the above concludes the process of my current critique of my module on the conjugation of -ar Spanish verbs, the important thing to always bear in mind about the user-centered design process is that it is a constant one. To produce a design which is focused on the ongoing success of our users, we must be committed to a flexible feedback loop which allows us to best adapt to their evolving needs. Good luck, and happy designing!








Chanel Brown

Chanel lives on the East Coast and is currently pursuing an MA in Technical & Professional Writing.
Along the East Coast