We test documents with readers

We want organisations to make sense to their customers, users and citizens

Our unique blend of linguistics, research and writing skills

We use our unique blend of linguistics knowledge, research expertise and skills in plain writing and information design to help organisations to write business, regulatory and technical documents and forms more clearly. 

We do this because the services that many organisations provide to their customers, users and citizens are complex. These services  can be difficult to understand and even harder to explain. The same is true of some organisational procedures and processes for employees. In  the past, some organisations would have treated these Fact Sheets, disclosure documents, instruction manuals and the like with little more than token compliance.  After the Banking Royal Commission we know that token compliance isn't good enough. Organisations must communicate clearly.  Professional writers and trainers can help but research also plays a key role. Research like ours reveals to the organisation what the audience knows and doesn't know, how the audience conceptualises this topic, and what language the audience uses. 

In Financial Services, the term ‘consumer testing’ means testing a document with members of its intended audience to determine whether the document is easy for them to read, use, and understand. 

Writing to empower or persuade

Good writing is not just about clarity. Writers want readers to pay attention to and engage with the material.  This is how to do that:

  • Design for the eye
  • Make people curious
  • Write about them not you
  • Start with something easy
  • Use signs to show new information 

For more, see our blog post insights-from-document-testing-how-to-gain-attention

How to test

1. Individually. Testing should always be conducted as an individual interview and never in group discussions.

2. Independently. Participants should be members of the intended audience who have not been involved in the design or writing of the document.Testing should be conducted by an independent researcher who has not been involved in designing or writing the document.

 

Susan Bell Research is an expert in this form of testing. Contact Sue to learn more.

Tags: Document Design, Plain language, Consumer testing, Customer feedback

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