Usable Content in an Interactive World

In a project that can affect experimental media as well as a wide variety of other fields, Rensselaer’s Department of Language, Literature, and Communication has been awarded a major research grant from the Society for Technical Communication. In this project, Rensselaer will develop standards for analyzing, designing, and testing the usability of tech-mediated communications — ranging from graphics, to Web sites and Web gallery interfaces, to wikis and distance education environments. The team is studying “post-documents,” the electronic interfaces that have become increasingly visible as we move toward a paperless society, relying less heavily on traditional, physical documents for informative and educational purposes. The first goal is to identify what factors make post-documents usable. Following their findings, the group will produce and test a “Post-Document Toolkit,” made up of a set of broad characteristics that make electronic content usable and an associated set of metrics for measuring post-document usability.