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Say It Like It Is: plain language = user friendly

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Oregon Secretary of State used content strategy, usability testing and UX design when redesigning their website to be task oriented and user friendly. In the process, all content was rewritten to meet ...

Oregon Secretary of State used content strategy, usability testing and UX design when redesigning their website to be task oriented and user friendly. In the process, all content was rewritten to meet federal and state plain language standards.

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Say It Like It Is: plain language = user friendly Say It Like It Is: plain language = user friendly Presentation Transcript

  • The Law Mandate • Writing in plain language has been state and federal law for years. – ORS 180.545 and Plain Language Act.
  • Going from Law to Reality Challenge Our starting point at Oregon Secretary of State: • Staff who write Web content are doing so in addition to their primary job duties. • To use plain language, content managers need training, tools and ongoing support. • The existing philosophy: “More is better.” more content | more explanation | more Web pages
  • The Cultural Shift: First Step How do you rewrite Web content so that every word adds value and reaches as broad an audience as possible? Emphasis usability in your content strategy. Q: A:
  • The Cultural Shift: Customer Focus Answer Learn about your customers. Understand their top tasks. Write in plain language. A:
  • The Cultural Shift: How We Got There Answer - detail • Bring in the necessary expertise, preferably user experience, content strategy and editing professionals. • Audit content to: – Determine scope of project. – Identify content that can benefit from editing or archiving. • Do usability testing and information architecture design to: – Identify main user tasks. – Retire content unrelated to main user tasks. • Document editorial and visual style standards. • Conduct training. • Publish agency-wide Web and content governance policies. • Institute ongoing compliance monitoring and mentoring.
  • Bring in the Necessary Expertise Oregon Secretary of State hired people with the array of skills needed. • User experience design (UX) – Enforces data driven decision-making. Usability testing measures the success of design and content. – UX gathers information about audience demographics and top tasks. • Content strategy – Introduces tools and expertise to curate content and manage the conversion to plain language • Writing and editing – The staff who now find themselves doing Web content management were actually hired to perform unrelated jobs, such as customer service work. None were hired for their ability to communicate organizational messages with a specified voice and tone. – Having two writing professionals on board helps ensure the needed skills.
  • Audit Content • Introduce concept of content curation. – Use auditing tools to evaluate content, identifying what to revise and what to retire.
  • Audit Content • Introduce concept of content curation. – Use auditing tools to evaluate content, identifying what to revise and what to retire. – Content has a lifecycle. It’s OK to retire content.
  • Focus on Main User Tasks • Do information architecture design and usability testing to identify the top five tasks of your website or each of your subsites. • Retire content that doesn’t address a task. • Revise the remaining content for – Accuracy. – Task focus. – Voice and tone. – Plain language. – Accessibility.
  • Revise to Engage What’s involved? Our usability testing found that elections information fell into two major categories: elections and voting. • All citizens might use online voting information. • A subset of citizens might use information in the elections category, particularly those interested in running for office, mounting an initiative drive or researching campaign financing. Decision • We created two categories – voting and elections – in the global navigation of the new website. • We rewrote the content to fit the audience of each section. EXAMPLEEXAMPLE
  • Revise to Engage [cont.] Before revision:
  • Revise to Engage [cont.] After revision:
  • Before After
  • Revise to Engage [cont.] Takeaways Plain language: • Use present tense and active voice. • Speak directly to the end user. • Use everyday words. • Consider the audience. • Avoid using figures of speech that don’t translate well. Usability: Is it useful, accurate, timely? • Learn through usability testing what information is missing. • Add it to your content. • Consolidate related content. • Eliminate content that doesn’t address a main user task. • Streamline and simplify website navigation.
  • Revise Legal Language Task The Oregon Secretary of State website was supplying information available elsewhere. For instance, some pages quoted Oregon statutes. Solution We revised these pages to: • Link directly to statutes. • Provide plain language summaries of the statutes. EXAMPLEEXAMPLEEXAMPLE
  • Revise Legal Language [cont.] Before revision: 260 words HAZ: (ORS Chapter 466.205) - Hazardous Waste Lien Any person owning a facility which generates, treats, stores or disposes of and any person having the care, custody or control of a hazardous waste or a substance which would be a hazardous waste except for the fact that it is not discarded, useless or unwanted, who causes or permits any disposal of such waste or substance in violation of law or otherwise than as reasonably intended for normal use or handling of such waste or substance, including but not limited to accidental spills thereof, shall be liable for the damages to person or property, public or private, caused by such disposition. All expenditures covered by this section and all penalties and [cont. on next]
  • Revise Legal Language [cont.] [cont. from previous] damages for which a person is liable to the state under this chapter and ORS chapter 465 shall constitute a lien upon any real and personal property owned by such person. The department shall file a claim of lien on real property to be charged with a lien with the recording officer of each county in which the real property is located and shall file a claim of lien on personal property to be charged with a lien with the Secretary of State. The lien shall attach and become enforceable on the date of such filing. IRS: (ORS 87.806 (3)) - Federal Tax Liens Notices of federal liens upon personal property, whether tangible or intangible, for obligations payable to the United States and certificates and notices affecting the liens shall be filed in the office of the Secretary of State.
  • Revise Legal Language [cont.] After revision: 57 words Hazardous Waste Lien (HAZ) - ORS Cha​pter 466.205 If a person or facility mishandles hazardous waste, the state Department of Environmental Quality may place a lien to recover the costs of cleanup and damages. Federal Tax Liens (IRS) - ORS 87.80​6(3) These are notices of federal t​ax liens on personal property for failure to pay taxes. This section of the website is typically visited by people who are familiar with the Uniform Commercial Code.
  • Before After
  • Revise Legal Language [cont.] Takeaways • Write for your intended audience. • Write for the Web. – Write so that users can scan for answers to their questions. – Avoid being overly helpful – that extra text obscures the main task. • Avoid duplicating information available elsewhere. • Ensure content adds value. In the example, the revised content: – Gives a high-level overview and links to the statute if the customer needs more detail. – Uses simpler syntax, although the vocabulary still assumes familiarity with the Uniform Commercial Code. – The new content is much shorter; from 260 words down to 57. – Less content means lower cost to maintain.
  • Revise Procedurals What’s involved? 1. Identify step-by-step processes buried in paragraphs. 2. Then rewrite as procedurals – 1, 2, 3. EXAMPLEEXAMPLEEXAMPLE
  • Revise Procedurals [cont.] Before revision:
  • Revise Procedurals [cont.] After revision:
  • Before After
  • Revise Procedurals [cont.] Takeaways • Communicate content through choice of format. • Use a readable font at 11 pt./15 px. or larger. • Keep steps short and simple. – Easier to remember and act on. – Accessible for those with cognitive impairments.
  • Set Visual and Editorial Standards • SOS Web Visual Style Standards. – Example: Lay out forms on a grid for clear communication.
  • Set Visual and Editorial Standards • SOS Web Visual Style Standards. – Example: Lay out forms on a grid for clear communication. • SOS Web Editorial Style Guide. – View excerpt from the section about readability.
  • Conduct Training Training includes: Classroom sessions with content managers. One-on-one follow-up when we work with their subsite’s actual content. Regular meetings of content managers to exchange tips and tricks. Ongoing mentoring as issues arise in newly published Web pages or PDF files. Online video trainings that distill lessons from each stage of training.
  • Set Content Governance Policy Include the plain language requirement in content policy.
  • Set Web Governance Policy Create enforcement structure with a governance policy.
  • Lay Out Tactical Plan - 1 • Be sure policy and governance plan refer to your editorial style guide, which explains plain language standards. • Document process for content creation and editing so managers can allot enough time in staff schedules. It takes time to rewrite! EXAMPLEEXAMPLE
  • Work Flow for Content
  • Lay Out Tactical Plan - 2 • Be sure policy and governance plan refer to your editorial style guide, which explains plain language standards. • Document process for content creation and editing so managers can allot enough time in staff schedules. It takes time to rewrite! • Supply task-flow diagrams to show roles and responsibilities from content creation to publishing. Accountability is key. EXAMPLEEXAMPLE
  • Task Flow for All Contributors
  • Set Web Governance Policy Takeaways • Include the plain language requirement in Web content policy. • Create enforcement structure in governance policy. • Be sure policy and governance plan refer to your editorial style guide, which explains plain language standards. • Document process for content creation and editing so managers can allot enough time in staff schedules. It takes time to rewrite! • Supply task-flow diagrams to show roles and responsibilities from content creation to publishing. Accountability is key.
  • Institute Ongoing Compliance Monitoring • Both the Secretary of State Web content and governance policies stipulate compliance monitoring. • The content management system provides the technological support to make monitoring possible.
  • Compliance Monitoring 1. The content management system sends an alert to the agency Web Team every time a page is published. 2. The Web Team monitors compliance with agency standards: - Visual and editorial. - ADA accessibility. - W3C code. 3. The Web Team, which includes a content coordinator and editor, helps content managers bring content into compliance.
  • Make It Fun • Share the vision: inclusion, customer service, transparency. • Build team spirit across divisions. • Allot the time needed for the task. • Wear the T-shirt.* *No tax dollars went toward purchase of the project uniform.
  • Project Duration • Content migration to new website Includes content audit, revision, migration to new site templates and editing. – 1 full-time content coordinator: Feb. – Sept. 2013. – 1 part-time editor: July – October 2013. – 10 content managers, 2 hours/week: March – July 2013. • Number of Web pages – Audited on legacy website: 2,323 (.html) – Published on new website: 463 (.aspx) = an 80 percent decrease!
  • See for yourself Oregon Secretary of State sos.oregon.gov Jacqueline Sowell jacqueline.sowell@state.or.us gotsowell@gmail.com