Following this helps:

  • people in a hurry – simply written content is easier to scan and absorb instantly
  • people who are stressed – if you're anxious you find it harder to comprehend things
  • people who are multi-tasking – if you're holding a baby or talking on the phone your attention's divided
  • cognitive impairments – words and sentences that are easy to understand carry less cognitive load
  • visual impairments – short and simple sentences convey meaning in a smaller visual field

Guidelines

Make specialist content comprehensible by non-experts. Simple words help everyone.

1. Explain specialist terms: anybody can access your content.

2. Create content that all users can understand, whatever their expertise or background.

3. Help users understand specialist terms.

4. Use plain English for highly literate audiences.

Usability evidence


1. Explain specialist terms: anybody can access your content.

Assuming who your audience is, and that they'll understand the technical terms you use, are common misconceptions. 

2. Create content that all users can understand, whatever their expertise or background.

When you present a concept explain its parts and processes. If you need to include a technical term consider explaining it. Make sure the surrounding language is in plain language.

3. Help users understand specialist terms.

You could:

  • link to an existing definition – this could be an external site
  • add a explanatory definition after using the term
     

Example:

Before
"It is a Palladian style stone building, and contains a number of splendid paintings and much fine wood-carving." – original sentence

After
"It is a Palladian style stone building, and contains a number of splendid paintings and much fine wood-carving." – with link to a definition

"It is a Palladian style stone building and contains a number of splendid paintings and much fine wood-carving. Palladian style architecture features include columns, symmetry and decorative arches." – with explanatory definition

4. Use plain English for high literacy audiences.

Higher literacy level users scan web pages too, and have a particular need for content in plain English.

People with the highest literacy levels and greatest expertise tend to have to read the most. They do not have time to for lengthy, complex content. Churchill called for his reports, telegrams and other communication materials to be written succinctly.  
 


Usability evidence: specialist terms

'Writing Digital Copy for Domain Experts', H. Loranger and K. Moran, NNg, 2017

'Writing Digital Copy for Specialists vs. General Audiences', K. Moran, NNg, undated

'Plain Language For Everyone, Even Experts' , H. Loranger, NNg, undated

'How Little Do Users Read'? J. Nielson, NNg, 2008

'TechWhirl Fast 5: Understanding Plain Language and Simplified Technical English', Connie Giordano, TechWhirl, 2017

'Advantages and disadvantages with Simplified Technical English', MSc thesis paper, Karin Disborg, 2007

'Technical Writing Need Not Be Abstruse—Use Plain Language for Maximum Impact', Colleen Blessing, 2015

'The Facets of the General Public as Audience' Cheryl Stephens and Mariah Stufflebeam, 2017

‘Guidelines for authoring comprehensible web pages and evaluating their success’, Spyridakis, J. H., Technical Communication, 2000, pp. 359– 82

'Sentence length: why 25 words is our limit', Inside GOV.UK, UK Government blog, 2014

'Identifying information seeking behaviours of low and high literacy users: combined cognitive task analysis', Kodagoda, N., Wong, B. L. W., Kahan, N. 2009. Access paper as PDF.


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Created by Lizzie Bruce on 2019/03/08 22:16