Human Services website the first to meet the Plain English Foundation's gold standard

By The Mandarin

November 2, 2018

The Department of Human Services has recently overhauled its website and received a big tick of approval from the Plain English Foundation.

It is also putting in place a general plain English policy, which encourages all staff to ditch the “complicated government language” whenever they’re communicating with the public.

The PEF scores websites out of 100 and offers a gold certification to any that reach 85 or more. The new DHS site scored 88, which is the highest score the foundation has ever given and the first to meet its gold standard, based on 13 criteria related to the ease of finding information.

“Before the review, expert staff at the department looked at the website’s design, improved the search function, and tested usability,” the department reports in a statement.

“The team also reviewed 100 payments and services pages and re-wrote more than 140,000 words. Specialist writers and an editorial team made sure the format and structure of the site met the audience need.”

According to the chief website editor Julie Watkins-Lyall (pictured above), the site gets 90 million unique visits a year from people with lots of different levels of reading ability, as you might expect.

“People are using the website six million times a month to manage their business with us so we have to make sure they can find and understand the information they need,” she said.

“Access to information is a basic human right. We must make sure our information and services are accessible to all Australians, including those with disabilities and special needs.”

The department says it puts each piece of new content through several tests before it goes up, with “communication specialists and subject matter experts” creating the content and the pre-publication checks done by the editorial team led by Watkins-Lyall.

And they use “sophisticated programs that monitor data and user sentiment” to identify problem areas that need to be fixed, according to the statement.

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