Target audience customization increasingly common

We have just finished our yearly investigation of how public sector bodies work with making their web content comprehensible. The results of this year's survey show both positive and negative trends.

A positive development is that more professionals are actively working to inform different target groups. The question "How does your organization ensure that information on the web reaches everyone" now 16 percent answers "Not in any particular way" compared with last year's 26 percent.

It gets more common to inform using alternative formats

It is also interesting that more organisations publish movies, pictures and illustrations on their websites. Funka and many others have shown how important it is to inform in other ways than through text, for the many visitors who have trouble reading. For example, 31 percent of the respondents answered that they informed with movies, compared with last year's 22 percent.

Text-to-speech does not make the content easier

Interesting and possibly troubling is the most commonly answered response to the question "How does your organisation inform people with impaired reading ability". Wholly 57 percent stated that they offer text-to-speech, TTS, as an alternative. The survey is limited and, of course, does not provide a whole picture, but there is a risk that website owners will provide automatic tools for reading out load – which is a very good complement – as a reason for not making their texts better. TTS works great as a tool for many users - but if the content is difficult, assistive technology will not make it easier to understand.

However, only 9 percent responded that they did nothing "not in any particular way" to reach people with impaired reading ability, compared with last year's 20 percent.

Unclear with plain language

The survey touched the Swedish language legislation on plain language on several issues. Among other things, a majority chose the plain language option as the primary means of reaching out with their information. But that is not an easy task, the comments to the question show. For example:

We have had plain language education, but as a communicator, I feel a lot of resistance and that people want to stick to their bureaucratic language unfortunately.

In total, 49 percent stated that they strive towards writing plain language specifically "to inform people with impaired reading ability", which is slightly more than last year.

On the question on how organisations do to comply with the Swedish language legislation, fewer than last year answered that their employees are offered training.

Some have attended training in plain language, but that is only a small percentage of all of our web editors.

The conclusion is that there seems to be a need for both clearer procedures for working with plain language and more training, as well as manuals for editors and communication officers.

Persons with cognitive impairments is becoming a stronger target group for easy-to-read

This year 40 percent answered that they publish texts in easy-to-read. Last year, this figure was 44 percent. What is most interesting, however, is that the survey shows that site owners perceive that primary target groups for easy-to-read have been changed. This year, the majority say that their main target groups are persons with cognitive impairments and immigrants. Previously, the respondents stated that the easy- to- read texts were primarily aimed at persons that are not used with reading. There are certainly several reasons for this, but we humbly hope that we may have contributed a little bit to enlighten the. professionals around this topic.

In addition, we are delighted to see an increase from 5 to 16 percent, of those who evaluate how their target groups understand the information in easy-to-read.

But there are still only a few texts on the websites that are published in the easy-to-read format. The selection of information is therefore very important.

And just like previous years, the easy-to-read texts are

  • not updated
  • without pictures or illustrations
  • largely not evaluated, although there is a positive trend.

Many also responded in the same way as they did regarding plain language, that there are no current routines, tutorials or training in how to work with texts in easy-to-read.

To sum up, it is always nice to find that more respondents than previously are aware that they need to work actively with their content to include all target groups. Although they may be lacking both knowledge and resources to do it well.

About the survey:
We sent the survey to subscribers to our newsletter in Sweden.

The survey was open between March 23rd and April 20th 2018.

43 percent of the responses came from municipalities, 30 percent from government agencies, 8 percent from county councils, and the other 19 percent spread among other organisations such as universities, cultural institutions, libraries and educational associations.

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