In another department of our megaplex one of my colleagues, Aleks Totic is working on ballot layout and design for the TrustTheVote technology suite. I came across this great blog post from the Brennan Center at NYU that describes a recent situation where it appears a simple bit of questionable (but valid) layout may have caused many voters to skip past a ballot initiative. From the conclusion of the article:
"What probably would have alerted officials to this problem ahead of time, and at little or no cost, would have been a simple usability test: observing ten or fifteen King County citizens as they "voted" on the ballot before the design was finalized. This solution is simple, easy and cheap. The Usability Professionals Association has a great explanation of how it's done." (from Ballot Design Still Matters)
Yes, it's true, no matter how wonderful our ballot design guidelines are, and how well an automated checklist is applied to a ballot before printing, a simple usability test ("it aint rocket science") is so simple and cheap, it should never be skipped.