Reviewing User Interfaces

Techniques for Reviewing a User Interface

This presentation was given at these conferences: WritersUA (2008, 2009), AODC (2008), and ASTC (NSW) (2008). The slides below are from the 2008 presentations; only minor changes were made for the 2009 slides.

Techniques for Reviewing a User Interface from Rhonda Bracey

Official description from the conference websites:

"Can you just look over these new screens for us? Oh, and can you check the error messages too? It won't take long!" If you've been asked to review a web or standalone application's user interface but don't know what to look for other than checking the text, then this session is for you. As technical communicators, we are often in a position to identify usability problems related to the logical flow, layout, and structure of the interface; inconsistencies in the design; non-compliance with standards and guidelines; ambiguous wording on labels, error messages, dialogs, and onscreen user assistance; performance issues; functional errors; and the like. Rhonda shares practical checklists of things to look for when reviewing an interface, as well as various tools that can assist you.


  • What to look for when checking an application's user interface, including overall design, textual and visual elements, user actions and interactions, navigational links, and the '-ilities': accessibility, readability, usability.
  • About some tools that can help automate parts of the review process.



AODC (2006): Reviewing Screen-based Content

Reviewing Screen-Based Content from Rhonda Bracey

Reviewing Screen Based Content: Demo Examples from Rhonda Bracey

In May 2006, I presented a session on "Reviewing Screen-based Content" at the AODC Conference in Cairns, Queensland, and repeated that presentation (with minor variations) at the ASTC (NSW) annual conference in Sydney in October 2006.

Official description from 2006 AODC Conference website:

Have you been asked to edit or critique a website, Help system, or any other content designed for the computer screen? If you don't know what to look for (other than checking the usual things such as writing style, punctuation, etc.), then this session is for you.

Rhonda shares practical tips and techniques for dealing with screen-based content, and looks at various tools that can help automate some of the tasks.

Note: This session will not cover general text editing, such as writing style, punctuation, etc.


  • What to look for when checking a website, a CHM, and an animated tutorial or demonstration.
  • How to capture screen-based content in a form suitable for printing (for hand mark-up) or electronic delivery (for screen mark-up).
  • Which software tools can help automate the reviewing process.



Society of Editors (WA) Inc. (2005)

From Paper to Pixels: Dealing with Digital Content (PDF; 72 KB): Handouts from a presentation given by Rhonda Bracey to the Society of Editors (WA) Inc., September 6, 2005



Here's some feedback on our user interface reviews and related conference presentations:

  • WritersUA Conference 2009: Average score: 4.43 out of 5 for this presentation. Some comments included: "Comprehensive", "Almost made me want to be a tester", Great job!", "Very knowledgable", "Excellent -- very helpful", "Good infusion of humor; great examples", " act". Full details are available from the Testimonials page.
  • Rhonda Bracey was perfect for the last session—her clearly vast experience in reviewing user interfaces combined with her humour and desire for us to know had us ending on a high note. Truck loads of information energetically delivered. Probably the best example of how I would say I wasn't alone in my positive reaction to the conference was glancing around during Rhonda's presentation and seeing a room full of animated faces. (review of session at the ASTC (NSW) Conference, by Gill Knowles; published in the ASTC (NSW) Newsletter, November 2008, p 4)
  • Your presentation ["Techniques for Reviewing a User Interface"] was one of the few that I sat through over the conference — being on the registration desk kept me busy. Although I am a bookkeeper/administrator and not a technical writer, I must say I thoroughly enjoyed your presentation. You are indeed a very dynamic speaker, easy to listen to as well as delivering an enjoyable talk. I quite enjoy having a little giggle during a presentation and your examples of how not to do it — particularly in MYOB — certainly gave me a good laugh as I use this program quite a lot. I feel that I benefited from your presentation as it has made me look at the admin forms I create and how they look and line up, so thank you. (Karen, ASTC (NSW), Sydney, October 2008)
  • AODC Conference 2008: Average score: 4.5 out of 5 for this presentation; 3rd highest ranked session overall. Full details are available from the Testimonials page.
  • WritersUA Conference 2008: Average score: 4.675 out of 5 for this presentation. Some comments included: "BEST OF SHOW!", Excellent", "Very useful". Full details are available from the Testimonials page.
  • Just a quick ‘thanks’ for the excellent session on UI reviewing. This is certainly an issue I plan to address here at [company]. Your insight and obvious experience have inspired me to approach our software R&D director with a plan to increase the value of their already very excellent software apps by following the checklist you suggested and, to help them develop a sound yet simple style guide. (Michael Diederich, San Francisco, March 2008)
  • ... the CIC SIG management team thank you for your incredibly thorough review of the pre-alpha Contractor's Database project. Wow, what a lot of valuable feedback! (STC Consulting and Independent Contracting SIG secretary, February 2008)
  • Rhonda, I like your work! I've looked at your document and can really appreciate the effort you've gone to. I can only imagine your frustration. As you point out, there is a lot of inconsistency and poor UI design - and your document only covers "Text and Labels"!!

    I think your matter-of-fact, no-holds-barred, warts-and-all style of constructive criticism is new to the [company] team. I find some of the [development team] are very wary of criticising each others' work.

    Have you been asked to do further in-depth reviews of their applications? In the coming months I'm hoping to change the way they build their applications - it would be good to have your recommendations/guidelines adhered to from the outset. (D.P., Team Architect and Integration Coordinator, Perth, October 2007)

  • AODC Conference 2006: Some of the written comments: "Wonderful", "I hadn't thought I was interested, but it had heaps of useful info, so I'm glad I didn't choose this session for a break", "...Great content", "A great coverage of a lot of useful tools", "A lot of content in time, but wouldn't want it longer", "Great practical session", "Would have liked more demo stuff", "Very useful review and tools", "Great session. Not teaching us to suck eggs. Useful resources." (By the way, this session was the third highest ranked for the entire conference.)
  • ASTC Conference 2006: Average scores—out of 5—for this presentation were: Relevance - 4.69; Depth - 4.74; Quality - 4.72.
  • Thanks, Rhonda, for last night. Your presentation was exceptional and very much appreciated by all who attended... I have already received one email full of praise for your presentation and the conversation over a glass of wine before we slouched off into the night was absolutely positive and deeply sincere. (Betty Durston, President, Society of Editors (WA), Inc., Perth [Sept 2005])
  • Many thanks to those who attended last night's meeting—it was a great success. A huge thanks to our presenter, Rhonda Bracey, for her well-prepared, thorough and engaging presentation. (Chris Walker, Society of Editors (WA) Inc., Perth [Sept 2005])

Evaluation scores and comments from conference presentations are available from the Testimonials page.