After you have developed your preliminary messages and made initial decisions about layout and visuals, you’ll want to get feedback on them from your intended audiences. This pretesting will enable you to make final decisions about your messages, content, and approach before you plunge into the final writing and design.
Pretesting is strongly recommended because it ensures that your intended audience finds your message understandable, motivational, informative, personally relevant, appealing, acceptable, and culturally appropriate. It is important, however, to keep in mind its limitations. Pretesting cannot guarantee or predict learning or motivation. For example, qualitative pretesting, done through the use of focus groups, is not statistically precise and its findings may not be generalizable to a larger audience. Pretesting also is not a substitute for experienced and expert judgment.
Decide What Issues to Cover During Pretesting. During pretesting you want to learn what your intended audiences think about the ideas you are trying to communicate through words and visuals. You want to observe and hear how they react to the concepts and why they react as they do. You also need to get a sense of whether audience members perceive that your communication objectives are reflected in the materials presented to them during message testing.
Before you get into the prestesting itself, determine what questions you want to ask and how you want to structure your focus groups or interviews. Write a focus group discussion guide or in-depth interview guide. Use your communications objectives to determine what you want to ask. For example, if one of your objectives is to enhance understanding of Use of Solar Energy-, ask questions to see whether participants understand the concept. Asking about participants’ understanding of concepts is particularly important because many misconceptions exist.