A Script Theory Approach to Usability and Design


Kirk St.Amant
Louisiana Tech University and University of Limerick


April 20, 2016 - 2:00 PM


April 20, 2016 - 3:00 PM

Effective design involves understanding the contexts in which individuals use content. Such contexts of use, however, can be complex situations. Designing for them requires technical communicators to identify a range of factors that affect how information is accessed and used based upon different conditions. In such cases, the question becomes “What factors affect how individuals access and use content in a given setting?” Script theory can serve as an effective mechanism for answering this question.

Pioneered in the field of cognitive psychology, script theory can provide technical communicators with a framework for identifying factors affecting user expectations in different contexts. It does so by isolating central aspects associated with human expectations of behavior in most settings. By helping technical communicators understanding what these factors are, how they create assumptions associated with a particular context of use, and how they influence expectations of design in such settings, script theory can serve as an effective foundation for researching user expectations in different settings. Technical communicators can then use the results of such research to engage in design practices that address such expectations and, ideally, improve usability.

The objective of this session is to introduce attendees to what script theory is and how it can be used to design effective, usable materials for different contexts. In particular, participants will:

• Gain a foundational understanding of what script theory is.
• Learn how script theory affects user expectations and assumptions related to design.
• Review how script theory can guide research on design expectations and usability.
• Examine methods for using script theory when designing materials for use in different contexts.


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