Plain language (accessibility for content)

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Want people to understand your apps, sites, information? Write and design it in plain language so they can find, understand and use it. (Talk at Code for America, 22 Aug 2014)

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  • Below basic – only the most simple and concrete reading skills: Labels, simple signs,
    Basic – able to manage everyday tasks: basic instructions
    Intermediate – moderately challenging activities like consulting reference material: newspapers,
    Proficient – interpreting text, comparing viewpoints: arguments

    National assessment
    Adults 16+
    19K participants
    2003

    Prose, document, quantitative literacy.
    All three are important in elections
  • But, this is the bottom line
    And it contributes to voter disengagement.
  • No shouting.
    Active text
    If before then

    96 words down to 54 words – think about your translation budget

    NOTICE
    If you tear, deface, or make a mistake and wrongfully mark any ballot, you must return it to the election bard and receive a new ballot or set of ballots.
    To vote for a person whose name is printed on the ballot, darken the oval at the left of the person’s name. To vote for a person whose name is not printed on the ballot, write the person’s name in the blank space, if any is provided, and darken the oval to the left.
    TO VOTE, DARKEN THE OVAL NEXT TO YOUR CHOICE, LIKE THIS
  • Plain language (accessibility for content)

    1. 1. Plain language Accessibility for content Whitney Quesenbery @civicdesign | @whitneyq
    2. 2. Plain language means users can find what they need understand what they find use the information to meet their goals This definition was written by Ginny Redish and is used by the Center for Plain Language
    3. 3. Plain language = a11y = usability = user experience for information
    4. 4. Plain information is important because people...  have different degrees of literacy  do not always read carefully.  may have a cognitive disability  or a visual disability that can affect reading.  may not know (or read) the language well
    5. 5. 43% of Americans have a reading disability Below basic 30 million 14% Basic 63 million 29% Intermediate 95 million 44% Proficient 28 million 13% U.S. National Assessment of Adult Literacy http://nces.ed.gov/naal/kf_demographics.asp
    6. 6. Even skilled readers may be  rushed  distracted  tired  stressed  inexperienced  confused
    7. 7. We understand the problem too much text ignored or skipped hidden steps miss important actions jargon and unfamiliar words misinterpret meaning instructions in the wrong place make mistakes passive voice (ambiguity) guess what to do
    8. 8. When voters can't understand the ballot, forms, and voter guides they think that elections are difficult, confusing, and complicated.
    9. 9. There's a lot of forces behind difficult-to-read information  We've always done it like that!  The curse of completeness.  It's legal. It's supposed to sound like that.  My audience or content is special.  They can't tell the difference.
    10. 10. Myth: “My audience is special” But compare these guidelines for different audiences Teens  Write simply, using words that are common to your readers’ vocabulary  Be concise and get to the point  Make the content apply to personal and cultural experiences Older adults  Use words that most older adults know  Write in plain language with short, simple and straightforward sentences Low literacy  Put the most important information first  Write text with a simple sentence structure  Keep pages, paragraphs, sentences short
    11. 11. Myth: “People can’t tell the difference” Preference for style of instructions (% of participants) 9 82 9 0 10 20 30 40 50 60 70 80 90 Traditional version Plain language version No preference Report of Findings: Use of Language in Ballot Instructions, NIST IR 7556
    12. 12. We know how to fix that
    13. 13. Accessible UX Principle: Plain Language People can read, understand, and use the information • Write for your audience. • Follow plain language guidelines for writing content. • Write sentences and paragraphs for easy scanning. • Support users through their tasks. • Structure the whole page for scanning and comprehension. • Write helpful links. • Use language your audience is familiar with, or provide definitions. • Provide plain language summaries of complex content. • Don’t rely on readability formulas. • Usability test your content. Accessible UX Guidelines and a cross-reference to WCAG 2.0 http://rosenfeldmedia.com/books/a-web-for-everyone/resources/
    14. 14. 1. Write for the audience Speak to them in their words about their tasks
    15. 15. Elections (and government) are full of jargon • absentee ballot • canvassing board • contests • legislation • primary electon • provisional ballot • remedial • unaffilated • early voting • rebuttal • redistricting • polls • change parties • endorsement • split your vote • affiliate
    16. 16. Even simple election words can be confusing Vote by mail Early voting Vote at the polls
    17. 17. Use simple, everyday words Description Of Service The Site is an online community which enables photographers and graphic artists to post photographs and images, share comments, opinions and ideas, promote their work, participate in contests and promotions, and access and/or purchase services from time to time made available on the Site (“Services”). Services include, but are not limited to, any service and/or content 500px makes available to or performs for you, as well as the offering of any materials displayed, transmitted or performed on the Site or through the Services. Content (“Content”) includes, but is not limited to text, user comments, messages, information, data, graphics, news articles, photographs, images, illustrations, and software. Your access to and use of the Site may be interrupted from time to time as a result of equipment malfunction, updating, maintenance or repair of the Site or any other reason within or outside the control of 500px. 500px reserves the right to suspend or discontinue the availability of the Site and/or any Service and/or remove any Content at any time at its sole discretion and without prior notice. 500px may also impose limits on certain features and Services or restrict your access to parts of or all of the Site and the Services without notice or liability. The Site should not be used or relied upon for storage of your photographs and images and you are directed to retain your own copies of all Content posted on the Site.
    18. 18. Use plain language summaries for complex content or to communicate key points
    19. 19. Leap and land on the same word Give links good “scent of information” HT: Caroline Jarrett
    20. 20. Speak directly to the reader The text in the image says: Living with MS. Whether you just received a diagnosis of MS or have been living with it for a long time—this section is filled with information and tips on how to maintain your quality of life in the years ahead. Read about strategies to enhance your health and wellness, maximize your productivity and independence, and deal with emotional, social, and vocational challenges. nationalmssociety.org
    21. 21. Write for action Answer questions
    22. 22. Write with active verbs
    23. 23. Voters ask questions in their own ways What's on the ballot? Who do I support or vote for? Who is running? Who will I be voting for? Who are the candidates? Who supports the candidates? What are the candidates’ positions on [specific issue]? What are the ballot measures? What are the pros and cons for the measures? Does this measure mean a tax increases? How does the official guide compare to the TV ads? Who is in office right now?
    24. 24. Use active voice Tell voters what to do rather than what not to do Before If that oval is not marked, your vote cannot be counted. After You must fill in the oval for your vote to count Put the person doing the action before the verb Before Moving ahead is accomplished by touching the word Next After To go forward in the ballot, touch Next
    25. 25. Be positive  How much are the annual tuition fees at this university?  Based on what they read, they gave the wrong answer, thinking this university is more expensive, not less. A typical three-year degree at £3,000 a year adds up to to £9,000 – a hefty sum that doesn’t include living costs.... ...on average to £3,046 compared with £9,000... Universities will be able to charge up to £3,000 for annual tuition fees and the government is predicting that average levels of student debt will be around £15,000 for those entering higher education next year...
    26. 26. Can users interpret and act on the information? http://www.yourdiseaserisk.wustl.edu/hccpquiz.pl
    27. 27. Organize information logically
    28. 28. Provide a roadmap
    29. 29. Bite, snack, meal
    30. 30. 1 page: 1 topic This information was invisible
    31. 31. Plain language is a process
    32. 32. How to vote 356 words (1) Mark only with a writing instrument provided by the board of elections. (2) To vote for a candidate whose name is printed on this ballot fill in the (insert oval or square, as applicable) above or next to the name of the candidate. (3) To vote for a person whose name is not printed on this ballot write or stamp his or her name in the space labeled “write-in” that appears (insert at the bottom of the column, the end of the row or at the bottom of the candidate names, as applicable) for such office (and, if required by the voting system in use at such election, the instructions shall also include “and fill in the (insert oval or square, as applicable) corresponding with the write-in space in which you have written in a name”). (4) To vote yes or no on a proposal, if any, that appears on the (indicate where on the ballot the proposal may appear) fill in the (insert oval or square, as applicable) that corresponds to your vote. (5) Any other mark or writing, or any erasure made on this ballot outside the voting squares or blank spaces provided for voting will void this entire ballot. (6) Do not overvote. If you select a greater number of candidates than there are vacancies to be filled, your ballot will be void for that public office, party position or proposal. (7) If you tear, or deface, or wrongly mark this ballot, return it and obtain another. Do not attempt to correct mistakes on the ballot by making erasures or cross outs. Erasures or cross outs may invalidate all or part of your ballot. Prior to submitting your ballot, if you make a mistake in completing the ballot or wish to change your ballot choices, you may obtain and complete a new ballot. You have a right to a replacement ballot upon return of the original ballot. (8) After completing your ballot, insert it into the ballot scanner and wait for the notice that your ballot has been successfully scanned. If no such notice appears, seek the assistance of an election inspector.
    33. 33. How to vote 106 words Mark the oval to the left of the name of your choice. To vote for a candidate whose name is not printed on the ballot, print the name clearly in the box labeled 'write-in', staying within the box. Do not make any marks outside the spaces provided for voting. If you do, your ballot may not count. The number of choices is listed for each contest. Do not mark the ballot for more candidates than allowed. If you do, your vote in that contest will not count. If you make a mistake, or want to change your vote, ask a poll worker for a new ballot.
    34. 34. Let's untangle this ballot instruction NOTICE If you tear, deface, or make a mistake and wrongfully mark any ballot, you must return it to the election board and receive a new ballot or set of ballots. To vote for a person whose name is printed on the ballot, darken the oval at the left of the person’s name. To vote for a person whose name is not printed on the ballot, write the person’s name in the blank space, if any is provided, and darken the oval to the left. TO VOTE, DARKEN THE OVAL NEXT TO YOUR CHOICE, LIKE THIS NOTICE If you tear, deface, or make a mistake and wrongfully mark any ballot, you must return it to the election board and receive a new ballot or set of ballots. To vote for a person whose name is printed on the ballot, darken the oval at the left of the person’s name. To vote for a person whose name is not printed on the ballot, write the person’s name in the blank space, if any is provided, and darken the oval to the left. TO VOTE, DARKEN THE OVAL NEXT TO YOUR CHOICE, LIKE THIS
    35. 35. 1. Put the instructions in a logical order TO VOTE, DARKEN THE OVAL NEXT TO YOUR CHOICE, LIKE THIS To vote for a person whose name is printed on the ballot, darken the oval at the left of the person’s name. To vote for a person whose name is not printed on the ballot, write the person’s name in the blank space, if any is provided, and darken the oval to the left. If you tear, deface, or make a mistake and wrongfully mark any ballot, you must return it to the election board and receive a new ballot or set of ballots
    36. 36. 2. Remove centering and capital letters. To vote, darken the oval next to your choice, like this To vote for a person whose name is printed on the ballot, darken the oval at the left of the person’s name. To vote for a person whose name is printed on the ballot, darken the oval at the left of the person’s name. To vote for a person whose name is not printed on the ballot, write the person’s name in the blank space, if any is provided, and darken the oval to the left. If you tear, deface, or make a mistake and wrongfully mark any ballot, you must return it to the election board and receive a new ballot or set of ballots
    37. 37. 3. Simplify the text to use common words To vote, fill in the oval next to your choice, like this: To vote for a person whose name is printed on the ballot, fill in the oval at the left of the person’s name. To vote for a person whose name is not on the ballot, write the person’s name in the blank space, and fill in the oval next to it. If you make a mistake marking your ballot, return it to the election board and receive a new ballot or set of ballots.
    38. 38. 4. Make the text active. Keep simplifying. To vote, fill in the oval next to your choice, like this: To vote for a person whose name is not on the ballot, write the person’s name in the blank space, and fill in the oval next to it. If you make a mistake marking your ballot, ask a poll worker for a new ballot.
    39. 39. 5. Add an illustration and a heading To vote, fill in the oval next to your choice To vote for a person whose name is not on the ballot, write the name in the blank space, and fill in the oval next to it. If you make a mistake marking your ballot, ask a poll worker for a new ballot.
    40. 40. Think about how people will read the form, instructions, or text
    41. 41. Can they...  read all of the information easily?  navigate through the form to find everything they need?  identify the different sections of the ballot or form?  find, read, and follow instructions accurately?
    42. 42. Can they...  understand what each instruction means?  follow instructions easily?  complete the ballot without making mistakes?  respond appropriately to error messages?
    43. 43. Field Guides
    44. 44. Storytelling for User Experience with Kevin Brooks Global UX with Daniel Szuc A Web for Everyone with Sarah Horton http://rosenfeldmedia.com/books/a-web-for-everyone/
    45. 45. Thank you.
    46. 46. Center for Civic Design centerforcivicdesign.org @civicdesign Whitney Quesenbery whitneyq@centerforcivicdesign.org @whitneyq

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