The study attempts to evaluate the usability and effectiveness of an agricultural information booklet known as Sunflower production: A concise guide targeted at small-scale rural farmers in a South African developmental context. The main objectives are to establish the target audience’s current knowledge of printed information as well as to examine the elements of the text such as appreciation, comprehension, and acceptance. This study also attempts to explore demographics and socio-economic factors as possible barriers to the effectiveness of communication in a developmental context. The argument is that the viability of, and prospects for effective communication with the small-scale rural farmers depend on two interrelated aspects vis-à-vis usability and effectiveness. Firstly, usability is the extent to which a communication ‘product’ such as the information booklet can be used by specific users to achieve specific goals with effectiveness, efficiency and satisfaction in a specified context such as agricultural development. Secondly, effectiveness is the completeness and the accuracy with which users achieve specified goals. It often relies on the presentation of information in a way that is understandable to the users. Doak and Doak (1996: 73) argue that although many types of material are suitable, most current information documents have shortcomings that make them difficult to understand. A serious shortcoming includes too much information in the document, which discourages poor readers and tends to obscure the priority of information for all readers. Sometimes the readability levels become too high for the average person. The reader is not asked to interact with the material, so the opportunity for learning and recall is lost. In most instances, difficult, uncommon words are seldom explained through examples. This is an empirical study that attempts to approach the world of research subjects, in this case small-scale rural farmers, with the minimum of preconceived ideas and to look at the phenomenon under discussion, namely usability and effectiveness. It has a predominantly descriptive nature and is focused on the distinguishing characteristics of text focus, expert judgement and reader/user focus. These issues were investigated during the research conducted among small-scale rural farmers in the North West province of South Africa. The booklet was also evaluated with the intention to establish which meaning the receivers find in the booklet on sunflower production and whether these messages really communicate the desired information. The research established that the material is not suitable for the target audience. The findings of the study provided valuable information for development communication message design. It is clear that the dissemination of development information in the rural context must be revised to ensure effectiveness. This study supports the hypothesis that if the presentation of information is not appropriate for a specific target audience, the communication will not be effective.
Dissertation (MA(Development Communication))--University of Pretoria, 2005.