Why Visual Testing Matters?

Vinayak Jayasree
5 min readMay 8, 2021

As a Creative Designer, I firmly believe that visual mediums are the most effective ways to disseminate information due to the human mind’s ability to process images quickly. Most people respond more readily to visual imagery than text.

Visual Test in Pune, Maharashtra, India

India and Visual Literacy

In India’s rural areas, literacy rates remain low, making people highly dependent on visuals rather than text. India is a diverse country where language, literacy, food, apparel, and lifestyle change every 50–100 kilometres. Therefore, ensuring that every visual we create is culturally appropriate and resonates with the target audience is crucial.

Visual Testing & Noora Health

Visual Test in Punjab

Visual testing is an integral part of Noora Health’s design process. It involves exploring visuals to ensure they make sense to the thousands of families who consume this information without any text support.

Below is an overview of a visual literacy testing method developed collaboratively with Noora Health and its local partners, successfully deployed in four Indian states. Other organizations and individuals can adapt it to suit various similar contexts.

Illustration Development Process

Finalize Content: Finalize the medical content that will go into the learning materials.

Research Visual References: Find accurate visual references to complement the content and begin the design process.

Review Designs: Once the design is ready, visuals are reviewed by in-house medical and content experts.

Select for Testing: Post-review, visuals are selected based on the visual complexity are selected for testing.

Visual Testing Tools

  1. A4 Sheet of Paper:
  • Front Page: Only visuals, no supporting text.
  • Back Page: Space for user feedback.

2. Pen or Pencil

Visual Testing Method

Visual Testing Method

Distribute: Distribute the tool to stakeholders, giving one image per person. We take the tool to hospital wards and hand it to patients and caregivers.

Be Patient: Allow users to review the visuals for a while. Once the tools are shared, move away to give them time and space to think freely.

Ask Why?: Return to the first user and ask what they understood from the image and why. Note their feedback on the back of the image. Continue with the rest of the users.

Shuffle: If time permits, redistribute different images to different people. This encourages varied feedback on the same visual.

Appreciate: Thank them for their time.

Examples of instances where Visual Testing has proved Useful:

Varied Cost of Living: While creating materials about post-chemotherapy care, we wanted to stress the importance of using only the shampoos recommended by the doctor, rather than arbitrary ones. However, after testing, it became apparent that most families and caregivers did not understand the message. Some mentioned that they couldn't afford shampoo bottles and only used smaller sachets.

Unintentional Religious Associations: After undergoing chemotherapy, it is crucial to avoid direct sunlight. Some families and caretakers initially misunderstood a visual aid depicting the sun with a red "X" over it as a Holy Cross and a sign that Jesus is coming from heaven to rid them of their sorrow. When the "X" was reframed better, the intended message was better understood by the majority of the audience.

Cultural Representation: In Punjab, we developed materials for an inpatient program. Initially, most of the imagery depicted the Sikh community. However, after testing the materials, we found that even though about 53% of Punjab’s population is Sikh, many families identified better with an individual who wasn’t depicted as Sikh.

Cultural Habits: During a project focused on raising awareness about nutrition for pregnant mothers, The above visual was tested in various Indian states. The majority of the audience found the image of a woman holding a plate and eating to be very inappropriate. They strongly believe in Hindu culture, where it is customary to place the plate on a surface and then bow down to eat as a gesture of respect.

Limitations

While it is ideal to test every image with as many people as possible, at some point, visual testing must stop, and an idea must be finalized. Continuous improvement is possible, but the goal is to select an image best understood by the majority, even if not by every individual.

Conclusion

Through this visual testing practice, the information we provide during our CCP program is understood better. Contextualizing illustrations makes the content more relatable and comprehensible for users. Visual testing ensures that our visual messages are effectively communicated, especially in diverse and low-literacy contexts, ultimately enhancing the impact of our programs.

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Vinayak Jayasree

Vinayak Jayasree is a self-taught visual artist and storyteller from Kerala, India.