Thursday, April 02, 2009

My 2¢– Legible Legal...Is that so hard?

by Christine Mortesen 2 comments


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Why is it that companies never (or at least very rarley) make legal copy legible? I hate to pick on Southwest because they happen to be one of my favorite airlines but this example is what promted the question...

Now I know that in some cases legal copy, and  terms and conditions can be extremely long and not exactly something you'd tell a friend to check out like that last novel you devoured, but at least give users some paragraphs, bullet points, know...some formatting!?

Why should companies do this, you ask? It's simple. Because it'll look like you have nothing to hide. When I saw this example from Southwest I instantly thought, "Ok that I signed up for this promotion how are they going to convolute it so that I really don't get what they say I will?"

It feels sneaky and underhanded. And you know...maybe this example is but i don't know because I stopped reading it after the second sentence. Is that what you really want? For some companies sadly, it is. But I'd like to believe that your company is different, that you do want your users to understand what they are, or just signed up for. You may even avoid irate customer service calls later on because everyone is on the same page and knows exactly what to expect. Fewer customer service calls = less money. User/customer expectations set = happy customer.

Agencies can be partially to blame for this as well. Little or no time is usually given to privacy policy pages, legal, etc. Take 30 minutes and leverage some CSS styles you've already created and make it at least appear that you want people to read these pages. Build that time into your budgets and timeline instead of letting it be an afterthought. We all know people are sue-happy and that legal copy is somewhat of a necessary evil so plan for it.

MORAL OF THE STORY: The less difficult you make things for your users and the more transparent you are about your offers/products/services/company the better.

Comments 2 comments
Zack Gilbert said...

But that legal page isn't for users. That's not the audience. And putting things in plain english leave it open to exploit. That's why the legal statements are there (and so illegible); to make sure that there aren't any loopholes that the company could end up getting sued over. 99.9% of the time, most normal readers never even look at the legal copy.

Christine said...

Hi Zack, thanks for leaving a comment. I hear you, legal has it's place which is why I'm not saying anything about the way it's actually written just it's formatting and display. If I made it sound like legal should be written in plain English that is not a point I'm trying to make. That would be nice but to your point it would be open to exploitaion.

The only thing I'd disagree with you here on is that terms and condition pages aren't for users. If I have to check a box saying I understand and have read's for me to read. Most people choose not to but if the presention (formatting) was slightly different maybe they would. All I'm asking for here in this particular example is a simple paragraph space or two.

Christine Mortensen
Visual Designer, UX Advocate, Social Medial Maven, Interactive Media Strategist, Blogger, and in my spare time I'm a Runner, Volleyball Player, and Bloody Mary Fan

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