Five tips for more usable communication products

World Usability Day was founded to ensure that the services and products important to life are easier to access and simpler to use.

At its heart, usability is about designing products and services fit for people. That is, products and services that do something useful, are easy and intuitive to use and that please the senses.

Usability is vital in written communication products – letters, manuals, websites, etc. Making your communication product easier to use increases the likelihood that it will achieve your purpose.

1. Get to the point fast.

Skip the fluff. Users (readers) are busier than ever so don’t waste their time. For example, when writing a letter your very first line could be “I’m writing to you because ….”

2. Present one thought at a time.

Keep paragraphs to one concept; sentences to a single idea. Consider separate pieces of communication if you have multiple messages.

 3. Use plain language.

Find the simplest words you can to express your ideas. Even sophisticated readers appreciate simple expression. Impress people with your thinking, not with your language.

 4. Tell the complete story.

Don’t leave people guessing. If there are information gaps, readers will either make it up themselves or tie up your phone lines seeking clarification. Layer the content so that users can choose how much detail they read.

5. Provide clear ‘next steps’.

Tell the user how you would like them to respond to your message – what they should do with the information you have given them.

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