Letting Go of the Words - Content as Conversation

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1 Letting Go of the Words - Content as Conversation Janice (Ginny) Redish, Ph.D. Redish & Associates, Inc. Bethesda, Maryland

2 Introducing me Janice (Ginny) Redish Linguistics Plain language Usability 2010, Janice (Ginny) Redish Letting Go of the Words Slide 2

3 Where do you go for health information? "By a large margin, people take their health questions to the Internet first, performing their own research. Then they take that information to their doctor for discussion." istockphoto Dennis Thompson, HealthDay Reporter, reporting on results of the HINTS study from an article in the New England Journal of Medicine, March 4, managing-your-healthcare/insurance/ articles/2010/03/03/people-still-trust-theirdoctors-rather-than-the-internet.html 2010, Janice (Ginny) Redish Letting Go of the Words Slide 3

4 The internet is a critical source for health information for American adults 2009 Go online 74% Have broadband 59% Get health info 61% 0% 10% 20% 30% 40% 50% 60% 70% 80% 90% 100% americans-look-online-for-health-information 2010, Janice (Ginny) Redish Letting Go of the Words Slide 4

5 What makes you choose a site? istockphoto Placement in Google results What you trust, find credible 2010, Janice (Ginny) Redish Letting Go of the Words Slide 5

6 What makes you stay on a site? Can we find what we need? Can we understand what it says? Does it answer our questions? 2010, Janice (Ginny) Redish Letting Go of the Words Slide 6

7 That's usefulness, usability, plain language Any communication is useful, usable, and in plain language if and only if the people who come to it can!! find what they need!! understand what they find!! act appropriately on that understanding in the time and effort that they are willing to spend , Janice (Ginny) Redish Letting Go of the Words Slide 7

8 Every use of every web site is a conversation started by the site visitor How do I know when I'm getting enough exercise? I just had a blood test for prostate cancer. What do the PSA numbers mean? When should I worry? theme = content as conversation 2010, Janice (Ginny) Redish Letting Go of the Words Slide 8

9 Don't hog the conversation!! Take turns.!! Break up the text. 2010, Janice (Ginny) Redish Letting Go of the Words Slide 9

10 Old CDC page; CDC has revised this and most other health information, following the content as conversation model.

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12 Take turns Conversation = taking turns. Headings (especially question headings) are your site visitors' turns in the conversation. Flickr cc photo by Polandeze Chapter , Janice (Ginny) Redish Letting Go of the Words Slide 12

13 Eat Healthy

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15 Break up the text Testing showed that users did not read Version 1, where information was presented in paragraphs of text. However, Web users did read Version 2, where information was presented in bulleted lists and smaller "chunks" of text. healthliteracyonline/index.htm 2010, Janice (Ginny) Redish Letting Go of the Words Slide 15

16 Think about the person you are conversing with!! Answer your site visitors' questions.!! Use words your site visitors read quickly and easily.!! Write with words your site visitors know. 2010, Janice (Ginny) Redish Letting Go of the Words Slide 16

17 A good conversation meshes Your key messages Your site visitors' questions Successful Web site You must think about your site visitors' questions, or they may not "hear" your key messages. 2010, Janice (Ginny) Redish Letting Go of the Words Slide 17

18 Use words your site visitors read quickly and easily!! We all read the simple, common words faster. What is this couple's state of mind?!! Your highly-educated site visitors may be the busiest and least patient of your web users. Adjectives 2010, Janice (Ginny) Redish Letting Go of the Words Slide 18

19 Helping low-literacy users helps everyone Summers, K. and Summers, M., 2005, Reading and Navigational Strategies of Web Users with Lower Literacy Skills, ASSIST 2005, available from

20 Instead of Try this Instead of Try this obtain request prior to terminate purchase utilize your pet peeve of a big word and a shorter, simpler equivalent 2010, Janice (Ginny) Redish Letting Go of the Words Slide 20

21 Write with words your site visitors know You learn earlier that "tween" = 9! 12 years. Great site; good example 2010, Janice (Ginny) Redish Letting Go of the Words Slide 21

22 Same great site But what might be a problem here for some readers?

23 Write the conversation!! Write to your site visitors.!! Write in short, straightforward, active sentences. 2010, Janice (Ginny) Redish Letting Go of the Words Slide 23

24 When contacting a licensing board for the first time, ask for a copy of its current licensing requirements and the average time it takes to process applications. This will provide the physician with a solid idea of when to consider 2 2 closing an existing practice and/or plan a move as well as with information about the potential problem areas to be addressed in completing an application. 1 1 Average sentence length = 33 words education-careers/becoming-physician/ medical-licensure.shtml

25 Contact the licensing board where you want to practice. Ask for a copy of its current licensing requirements and 2 the average time it takes to process applications. 1 1 Reading the requirements will help you understand any potential problems you may have in applying. Finding out about the processing time will help you plan when to close your current practice and when to move. 2 Average sentence length = 16 words Chapter 8

26 Write to your site visitors!! Use "you," as well as the imperative.!! Let site visitors ask questions in the first person. What To Do If You Get Sick: 2009 H1N1 and Seasonal Flu , Janice (Ginny) Redish Letting Go of the Words Slide 26

27 Write in short, straightforward, active sentences!! Retention of patient records for a period of no less than ten years after the patient's last visit is recommended for all health care providers.!! Health care providers should keep patient records for at least 10 years after the patient's last visit. ^ 25 " 17 words 2010, Janice (Ginny) Redish Letting Go of the Words Slide 27

28 Plain language = focus on the people you are conversing with!! Meet them.!! Watch them.!! Listen to them.!! Create personas.!! Develop a content strategy! and a style guide. Flickr cc photo by pedrosimeos7!! Try out drafts with your web users (iterative, small scale usability testing). Flickr cc photo by rogerfer istockphoto 2010, Janice (Ginny) Redish Letting Go of the Words Slide 28

29 Navigation and search are critical Chapter , Janice (Ginny) Redish Letting Go of the Words Slide 29

30 Good, clear design is critical Chapter , Janice (Ginny) Redish Letting Go of the Words Slide 30

31 Technology that works is critical 2010, Janice (Ginny) Redish Letting Go of the Words Slide 31

32 But all of that is in support of great content 2010, Janice (Ginny) Redish Letting Go of the Words Slide 32

33 Use your web site to have good conversations with your site visitors "!!! 2010, Janice (Ginny) Redish Letting Go of the Words Slide 33

34 Questions? Ginny Redish Morgan Kaufmann / Elsevier, , Janice (Ginny) Redish Letting Go of the Words Slide 34