Editorial Sept/Oct 2021

Science-Based Content Design: How Humans Process Information

In this issue of Intercom, I partner with information development ace Tina M. Kister to make the business case for using science-based content design in technical communication. Evidence-based content design decisions produce information all humans can process faster, with less effort, and with fewer frustrating, time-consuming, confidence-damaging, trust-busting errors.

Making practical, evidence-based decisions about content requires us to cultivate a deep understanding of how our eyes, brains, and minds work because of how we are physically and chemically structured. The contributors to this special issue are an interdisciplinary bunch — recognized experts in their chosen fields — who desire to help us take an evidence-based approach that aligns with how human beings naturally perceive and process information.

We present a sampling of lessons from across disciplines to demonstrate how taking an integrated, human-centered, and science-based approach can provide us with clear, actionable insight into creating content that genuinely helps people succeed.

In This Issue

We include contributors with expertise in a range of areas, including:

  • Information developer, entrepreneur, and evidence-based content design evangelist Tina M. Kister, who tells us about her journey developing an online program for teaching a science-based approach to content design.
  • Prolific writer and professor of computer science Jeff Johnson, who talks about the science of reading and how it should shape our decisions when developing content.
  • Lecturer, researcher, author, and statistics guru Riccardo Mazza, who gives us tips for visualizing complex information to make it easier for others to understand and use.
  • Researchers Yulia Goldenberg and Noam Tractinsky, who explore usability and human-computer interaction and discuss the importance of using an evidence-based approach when localizing user interfaces for readers of bidirectional languages, such as Arabic and Hebrew.
  • University of Michigan graduate research assistant and cognitive psychology buff Xin Sun, who debunks myths that negatively influence how we create content, focusing on the popular myth of learning styles.
A First Step

There’s no way to convey everything there is to know about science-based content design in the space we have available here. Consider the lessons in this issue the first step toward a better understanding of how taking an integrated, human-centered, and evidence-based approach to content design decisions can provide us with clear, actionable insight into creating content that helps people succeed.

Use the knowledge our contributors share here as a jumping-off point to continue learning how science can help us make sound business decisions about how we design and deliver content to those who need it. To continue learning about science-based content design, follow the contributors on social media. Explore their blogs, books, presentations, and other content. These experts have many important lessons to share that we can put to work to make our content as helpful as possible.

For more information about science-based content design, join Kister’s InfoDev Academy, opening later in 2021. Register to receive an invitation to join the academy’s free online learning community at www.infodevacademy.com.


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