Communicating clearly

hands typing computer

Written by Sarah Richards, Founder at Content Design London

This blog post is about communicating at a difficult time. You’ll note that I am not using the cor-word, the pan-word, or the abbreviation with 19 in it. This is because I want to keep this post out of search results. I don’t want people looking for health advice to end up here.

There seems to be some frustration bubbling up with the way content is being presented while everyone is scrambling to do the best job possible.  Here are a few things to think about.

Don’t publish if you don’t need to.

The first question is always: ‘do we need this at all’? If you are selling trainers, you do not need to publish what the symptoms are. It is much better to link to authoritative sources. This is for two reasons:

  1. as the situation changes, authoritative sources like government and government health websites are more likely to have accurate up-to-the-minute information that could save lives.
  2. you do not need website traffic more than people need information about their own health.

Don’t clutter up search results. If someone else is doing it better, let them. Point to them. Help everyone.

Only publish if you can add value for your audience.

We understand that working in silos is a problem in government and large organisations. Don’t communicate from one. People need a single, coherent message. In most cases, your audience couldn’t care less which department is doing what. They just want information. Get together, work out the mental models, language and needs of your audience. Communicate as a whole.

Including emails.

Many of us are getting emails from companies we have long forgotten about. Supermarkets, delivery companies, pharmacies and the like, great. You probably have important information like:

  • changes to schedules,
  • limits on stock,
  • what you are doing to make sure we don’t run out of anything.

If you have concrete things to say, do. But if you are just commiserating and saying that you are committed to cleaning, ask yourself if you need to.  What else can you say to help? Do you need to send an email at all? Some cafes are posting instagram stories of them cleaning. Would that be more reassuring? Choose the right channel for your communications.

Structure: design and content.

It’s easier to grasp information on a page clearly split into sections. These could be:

  • symptoms,
  • work,
  • school,
  • social events (or whatever)

with a clear design, properly coded, your audience can take in all the information in a glance.

Which is perfect and we should be doing it.
For sighted people.

Think about those who might be accessing your information in a different way.

Someone using a screenreader can’t ‘glance’. They have to listen to all the headings or all the text to find the one they want, which may be the last one on the page. If you’ve put 50 unstructured content items on that page, that’s still a fair amount of listening at whatever speed.

We have a 20 second rule. If I can’t listen or see and work out what I am going to get from a page in that time, the page could be improved.

But back to point 1 – unless you are government, it is unlikely you will need to do any of that kind of content.

If you have one page on this topic, you still need to structure it.

Think about the different prompts or reasons for someone to come to the page and organise it along those lines. Or, identify the different groups that will use the page and organise it by those. A long page of random stuff shoved together is not going to help anyone.

Working with designers is so helpful, however, many don’t have multidisciplinary teams. I’d say ‘do what you can’. Rely on good language (Google trends and search engine optimisation tools can help you), titles and white space if necessary.

To read the full blog click here.


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