The power of clear language

Clear language brings out the core of the content. We give you four good reasons to use plain language throughout your design project.

Written by:

Åsmund Eikenes

,

Leader for Content Design

June 11, 2023

Clear language is very important for good digital services: Clear language means that people understand and can use the information they read, and clear language contributes to openness, inclusion and democracy.

The plain language initiative of the Language Council, KS and the Directorate of Digitalisation has in recent years raised the value of plain language for digitization projects and in public services. The work has also raised the value of the skills needed to write in a clear and user-oriented way.

In many contexts, on the other hand, clear language is understood as dissemination and communication: a necessary effort to ensure that the target group understands the message. But plain language more than good communication.

At Halogen, we experience more and more often that the ability to think and formulate clear thoughts with clear language plays an important role also in those parts of a design project that are not directly about communication.

Our experience is that working with clear language raises the quality of the process, and strengthens the project group's ability to develop solutions that matter. That is why we often include copywriters in the project team in both large and small design projects.

Here are four good reasons to use clear language throughout the design project:

1. Structure in the planning – how the pieces fit together

The planning phase of a project is both chaotic and dynamic. A copywriter can help to develop, challenge and explore new contexts and unexpected possibilities, and strengthen the ideas as they take shape. Clear thoughts through clear language can also highlight which ideas do not hold water.

A copywriter can also use knowledge of dramaturgy and storytelling to structure the ideas, so that users understand how the whole is connected.

2. Insight as a foundation – the story we build on

Clear language requires that we know what we want to say. It exposes unclear thoughts and abstract ideas, and forces us to be concrete, clear and agreed.

In Halogen, we experience that simple, precise texts help us to gather the threads in the insight phase. The plain language work is of great help to ensure that the project group gains a common understanding.

A clear language supports good visualizations and allows us to understand, assess, sort and choose together. In addition, the texts can help to document the process right from the start, both for ourselves and for the customers we work with.

3. Concretize ideas – text that collaborates with design

We work with text as part of strategies, in reports and as part of digital solutions. In some of the design projects, we contribute to the work of user testing new services and products. As the prototypes take shape, there is also a need to test with real content, and the texts must find their place as part of the new design.

We experience that work with text and plain language has the greatest effect when it can happen at the same time as design and concept development, and in that way become part of the iterations throughout the design process. In many cases, we work with drafts of text directly in design tools, such as Figma, so that the content can play alongside the design throughout.

By working closely with the designers, we can discover which types of content belong in the various parts, and together develop principles and concepts where content, form and function are closely linked.

Content production as part of the design work includes both the texts that appear on buttons and menus (referred to as micro copy ), help texts for guides, longer articles, and of course also illustrations, images and video content.

4. Less work on the report – the writing gets a head start

The time spent on good texts during the project is time spent on raising the quality of the service. The result is that a possible final report does not need to be a gigantic rush job in the last week, but a natural extension and continuation of reflections and texts produced during the process.

Such a process makes it easier to involve the customer in the whole and understand the result of the project, and supports the customer to take ownership of the next steps.

Overall, we experience that plain language as part of design projects has the power to raise the quality and increase the impact of the projects. It is both because we like to write, but also because our colleagues also see the value and joy of plain language in the projects. We collaborate across disciplines and create good user experiences together.

Åsmund Eikenes
Leader for Content Design
aasmund@halogen.no