Queensland’s Logan City Council is the first in Australia to be awarded a gold standard for using plain language.
Logan City has achieved a gold-level triple-tick from the ACCC-certified plain language trademark agency PlainLanguagePro for its recent website redesign.
Owned by the Think-write group of self confessed “plain language zealots”, PlainLanguagePro offers a series of certification trademarks that promote the use of plain language in business and government documents.
Certification means an applicant has met a range of standards relating to clarity, readability, and communication, as well taking the needs of the user into consideration. Three levels of certification are available – bronze, silver and gold.
Katie Barton-Harvey, Community Services Director at Logan City, says the website aimed to use language that was clear and concise and free of jargon. Designers tried to use simple words and explain technical terms.
“Our main audience is our community, which is one of the most culturally diverse communities in Australia,” she told Government News.
“Plain language is a key element to better translation of content, given that many people in Logan also speak English as their second, third or fourth language.”
The previous website had been in operation for nearly 10 years and had served Council well, Ms Barton-Harvey said, but was need of an overhaul.
“We described it as an ‘overfull cupboard’. When we started to review what was required to make the website better, a number of opportunities were identified,” she said.
We are very pleased to be a key part of leading the change to make sure local government services are accessible and inclusive to all who need them.
This included a complete review and rewrite of all content, and an improvement of website accessibility.
“This produced a broader access and inclusion approach for us which we were keen to pursue. Plain and inclusive language then became a key component of this,” Ms Barton-Harvey said.
Getting the whole council on board
Logan City Council provides a diverse range of services to its community, with staff across the organisation providing content for the website.
Ms Barton-Harvey said this posed challenges to achieving consistency in tone of voice, and for plain language standards to be achieved and maintained.
“The organisation had to come on the ‘plain language’ journey and we spent time to explain to all areas of council the important reasons as to why this is a better way to provide service to our community,” she said.
The solution was to move from a de-centralised model to a centralised model, with the digital customer experience team reviewing new content and ensuring it was written to Council’s plain and inclusive language standards and met website accessibility guidelines.
Engagement from community
Council sought feedback from the community before developing the new website. An initial review of the website, completed a few years ago, surveyed over 1,000 members of the community.
“As the new site was being finalised and with the old site still in operation, we provided the opportunity for the community to access both sites to allow for comparison,” Ms Barton-Harvey said.
“We called this a ‘sneak peek’ campaign. Of the responses received, the feedback was overwhelmingly positive. We also received some great ideas for further improvement which we are now pursuing.”
“We described it as an ‘overfull cupboard’. When we started to review what was required to make the website better, a number of opportunities were identified.”
Reduced site complexity
Judy Gregory, PlainLanguagePro Certifier for the Council project, said one of the highlights of the new website was its reduced complexity.
Prior to the redesign, the Council website had 1,080 pages and 5,571 linked PDFs. This was reduced to approximately 670 pages and 500 PDFs.
“Information that belongs together is now kept together on one page, with navigation supported by good sub-headings, a ‘jump to’ function, and an inverted pyramid approach to writing,” Ms Gregory said in her report on the Council project.
Council has already received a number of enquiries from other councils interested in its work, Ms Barton-Harvey said.
“Other levels of government have been doing similar work with plain language so we are very pleased to be a key part of leading the change to make sure local government services are accessible and inclusive to all who need them,” she said.
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