Auditing and tracking whether documents are in plain language

Large companies produce thousands of documents, from adverts to customer-service letters, from annual reports to supplier agreements. A company-wide audit allows you to identify strengths and weaknesses and understand where to focus your efforts.

The problem

One of South Africa’s largest financial services companies committed itself to communicating clearly and honestly to its potential customers, customers, staff, partners, suppliers and employees.

The company knew that some documents met this aim, but suspected that there were areas that needed work. They wanted to identify which types of documents were problems, what the nature of the problems were, and how to fix the problems. They also wanted to track their progress over time.

The solution

Simplified performed yearly audits for five years. The audit criteria were drawn from international best-practice, the specific needs of the company, and the findings from various user research programmes. The audits include:

  • how documents are structured
  • whether information is designed for the benefit of the reader
  • writing style and readability
  • whether jargon is properly explained.

Reports can be drawn by department, channel, business area, target audience and criterion. Because audits only give half the picture, we also conducted comprehensive user testing to complement the audit and ensure that findings were on track.

The results

The company has clear direction for which areas to focus on, backed by both qualitative and quantitative research findings.