Pretest to Get Language and Visuals Right for Urban Adolescents
Pretesting is an essential part of developing effective SBCC materials. Pretesting measures the reaction of your intended audience to questions about messages or draft materials before they are produced.
Ideally, you would test concepts and potential messages with your intended audience to determine which concept to develop further. After the concepts have been developed into draft materials (e.g., posters, slogans, comic books, serial drama scripts and theme songs), you would conduct a pretest with your intended audience to make sure the materials are understood, attractive, accepted, engaging and motivating.
It is similar to cooking a special dish for guests. You would taste your dish as you are making it to see if the seasoning is correct and make adjustments to add more salt or spices if needed, instead of serving the meal to your guests and realizing it is not quite right. The same is true with pretesting. By reviewing your communication messages and materials before they are finalized, it allows you to make adjustments and avoid mistakes.
You may be able to re-contact youth who have participated in your previous research studies or your advisory group may be able to help recruit participants in the places where youth live or socialize. The city makes it easy to find people since they are traveling to and from work, eating out and socializing in public places. Sample questions for pretesting can be found in in the Resources section at the end of this Essential Element.
Pretesting can be done a number of different ways, although focus group discussions or one-on-one interviews with the intended audience are the most common.
Reminders for Pretesting
- Even if time and resources are limited, make sure to do some kind of pretesting with your intended audience. Spending a little time and resources up front to confirm the direction before producing your materials will be less time-consuming and more cost-effective than having to redesign, reprint and record if you realize later that your materials are not understood.
- Conduct pretesting with representatives of the intended audience and conduct in a location that is convenient and comfortable.
- Reassure participants that they are not being “tested,” but that the materials are being tested to see if the messages are clear.
- Let them know there are no right or wrong answers and you are very interested in what they think. Welcome their honest feedback and suggestions to make the materials better.
- Hire experienced researchers to conduct the pretest. If resources are limited, work with your local university to have students assist with the pretesting and gain field experience.
- Present the materials objectively allowing the participants to interpret the messages and materials for themselves.
- Ask exploratory, open-ended questions to allow the participants to explain what they see and hear and avoid close-ended (yes or no) questions. Sample questions for pretesting can be found in the Resources section at the end of this Essential Element.