The effect of iteratively applying plain language techniques in forms and their terms and conditions

Burger, Johanna Maria (2018-03)

Thesis (MA)--Stellenbosch University, 2018.

Thesis

ENGLISH ABSTRACT: This thesis wanted to answer the research question: Does iteratively applying plain language techniques in Glacier’s New Investment Plan form have an effect on understanding, usability and experience of the form and its terms and conditions? Since the Consumer Protection Act (CPA) of 2008 specifies that it is required to use plain language in public documents, many organisations have to redesign their documents using plain language techniques. When writing in plain language, companies will do it very conservatively, making only superficial changes. This is especially true of the terms and conditions sections of documents. The case study in this thesis, the New Investment Plan form, had previously been redesigned using plain language techniques. Testing of the form showed that the second, plain language version was not as successful as it could be, and that there was still room for improvement. In this thesis a checklist for the design of a plain language form was developed. The first and second versions of the form were then analysed using textfocused (a functional text analysis) and expert-focused approaches (an interview with a document designer and an interview with a legal expert). The second version was then tested with a reader-focused approach (usability testing, the plus-minus method, a questionnaire and an interview with respondents). The twenty respondents used in the reader-focused approach were above 35 with a tertiary education. Since the case study is a form used to gather information on investment plans, these are in most cases the characteristics of investors. The text-focused, expert-focused and readerfocused approaches established the ten main problems in the second version of the form. The form was then redesigned with the help of the checklist, taking these problems into consideration. The redesigned third version was then also tested using the same usability testing and questionnaire to test the second version, but with twenty new respondents. The two sets of data gathered from the second and third versions of the form were compared with each other with regard to understanding, usability and respondents’ experience. The second and third versions were also compared with the analysis of the first version. The comparison showed that the first version of the form had many problems. The second version solved many of these problems by using plain language techniques. Despite this, the second version still had problems with regard to usability, understanding and respondents’ experience. The third version had marginally less of these problems. This is also true of the terms and conditions section in the third version. These results illustrate that successfully using plain language techniques is an iterative process of testing and applying. The usability testing of the third version of the form, however, showed that the third version could still be improved. Future studies could further the testing and applying of plain language techniques in this case study to see if it could eventually result in a usable form.

AFRIKAANSE OPSOMMING: Hierdie tesis wou die volgende navorsingsvraag beantwoord: Het die iteratiewe toepassing van gewonetaal-tegnieke (plain language techniques) in die New Investment Plan-vorm van Glacier ’n effek op die verstaanbaarheid, bruikbaarheid en ervaring van die vorm en sy bepalings en voorwaardes? Aangesien die Verbruikersbeskermingswet van 2008 spesifiseer dat dit noodsaaklik is om gewone taal in openbare dokumente te gebruik, word baie organisasies verplig om hulle dokumente in gewone taal te herontwerp. Wanneer hierdie organisasies wel gewone taal gebruik, word dit baie konserwatief toegepas met slegs oppervlakkige veranderinge wat gemaak word. Oppervlakkige veranderinge word veral gemaak in die bepalings-envoorwaardes-afdelings van dokumente. Die gevallestudie in hierdie tesis, die New Investment Plan-vorm, is tevore herontwerp met die gebruik van gewonetaal-tegnieke. Toetsing van die vorm het getoon dat die tweede, gewonetaal-weergawe van die vorm nie so suksesvol was soos wat dit kon wees nie en dat daar ruimte vir verbetering was. In hierdie tesis is ’n kontrolelys vir die ontwerp van ’n gewonetaal-vorm ontwikkel. Die eerste en tweede weergawes van die vorm is geanaliseer met teksgefokusde (’n funksionele teksanalise) en kenner-gefokusde (’n onderhoud met ’n dokumentontwerper en ’n onderhoud met ’n regsgeleerde) benaderings. Die tweede weergawe is toe getoets met ’n leser-gefokusde benadering (bruikbaarheidstoetsing, die plus-minus-metode, ’n vraelys en ’n onderhoud met respondente). Die twintig respondente wat gebruik is in die lesergefokusde benadering is ouer as 35 met ’n tersiêre opvoeding. Aangesien die gevallestudie ’n beleggingsvorm is, is dit in die meeste gevalle die eienskappe van beleggers. Die teks-gefokusde, kenner-gefokusde en leser-gefokusde benaderings het die tien mees prominente probleme in die tweede weergawe van die vorm aangetoon. Die kontrolelys is toe gebruik om die vorm te herontwerp met gewonetaal-tegnieke met die doel om hierdie probleme op te los. Die herontwerpte derde weergawe is getoets met dieselfde bruikbaarheidstoetsing en vraelys as die tweede weergawe, maar met twintig nuwe respondente. Die twee stelle data van die toetsing van die tweede en derde weergawes van die vorm is vergelyk m.b.t. verstaanbaarheid, bruikbaarheid en respondente se ervaring. Die tweede en derde weergawes is ook vergelyk met die analise van die eerste weergawe. Die vergelyking het getoon dat die eerste weergawe van die vorm baie probleme gehad het. Die tweede weergawe het baie van hierdie probleme opgelos met gewonetaal-tegnieke. Ten spyte hiervan het die tweede weergawe steeds baie probleme gehad m.b.t. bruikbaarheid, verstaanbaarheid en respondente se ervaring. Die derde weergawe het minder van hierdie probleme gehad. Dit is ook waar van die bepalings-en-voorwaardes-afdeling in die derde weergawe. Hierdie gevolgtrekkings illustreer dat die suksesvolle gebruik van gewonetaaltegnieke ’n iteratiewe proses van toetsing en toepassing moet wees. Die bruikbaarheidstoetsing van die derde weergawe van die vorm het egter getoon dat hierdie weergawe nog steeds verbeter kon word. Toekomstige studies kan die toetsing en toepassing van gewonetaal-tegnieke in die gevallestudie voortsit om vas te stel of dit uiteindelik tot ’n bruikbare vorm sal lei.

Please refer to this item in SUNScholar by using the following persistent URL: http://hdl.handle.net/10019.1/103310
This item appears in the following collections: