25.09.2020

Your Ts & Cs are too complicated, says our information design agency

written by Matt Brady

Sure, they’re not the most exciting documents in the world. But they underpin everything everybody does.

If you’re working with something that isn’t tangible, like an insurance or banking product, reading the Ts & Cs is the only way to understand exactly what’s on offer.

Unfortunately, these important docs rarely get the respect and time they deserve. You need an information design agency on your side who can give your Ts & Cs the right attention.

Turning purple?

Have a quick scan for one of the longest sentences in your current Ts & Cs.

Now, try to read it out loud. If you can read it all without taking a break to breathe, you’re doing alright. If you’re running out of breath, you’re not.

It’s not only about sentence length though. If your Ts & Cs are stuffed full of – well, stuff – then it’s easy for them to spin on, and on, and on. Which? has found website conditions that are longer than Hamlet in the past, and they’re not any shorter today.

And Ts & Cs documents tend to be a struggle for readers, in terms of finding all the bits and pieces they’re looking for.

We cut things down to size. Our information design expertise helps us restructure documents, creating sensible information hierarchies, and even introducing interactive elements that help readers out.

A rose by any other name…

Yeah, we all know the cliché.

But the principle’s the same. Your Ts & Cs can work in exactly the same way without the legalese. As long as you’re saying the same things in different words, nothing really changes.

Let’s say I want to tell customers something important about my new juice delivery service. I could insert a clause to say:

“The Brady Juice Company reserves the right to refuse service for any reason, including but not limited to stock availability, erroneous pricing, or circumstances beyond our control. Orders which cannot be fulfilled will be refunded in full.”

Stress: I could. But why would I, when I can say:

“We send out all orders ASAP. We can cancel them if necessary – but we’ll always explain why. For example, we might have to do this if there was a pricing error on our website, or you’ve asked for something which is out of stock.

Don’t worry though. If it happens to you, we’ll refund you right away, so you’re not out of pocket.”

This turns a frustrating outcome into a customer service point, by promising to explain why something’s gone wrong with a reassuring tone of voice.

And we’ve also contextualised the problem. Chances are, no one will read this bit of the Ts & Cs unless something’s gone wrong. By turning it into a reactive piece of copy, and setting out a clear process, the whole thing seems a lot more human.

Our information design agency engages readers. We don’t exhaust them

We do understand the predicament. Your Ts & Cs are a major line of defence against a serious argument (and litigation). So, yes, everything has to be watertight.

But if by making things watertight to the extreme, you can end up making them really hard to understand. And when misunderstandings lead to complaints, you may find yourself in hot water, especially if you work in an industry with strict regulation or ombudsmen.

The question’s always lurking in the back of your mind – “What if?” So you start adding a new clause to cover yourself. And as you’re writing, a new “What if?” floats into your head. Then another.

It’s easy to tie yourself in knots this way. And the easiest way to cut through knots is to apply a bit of lateral thinking.

After all, if you’re a B2C business and your consumer contracts are overly long or complex, you’re even running the risk of having the whole thing working against you, rather than for you, in the UK – thanks to the Consumer Rights Act 2015.

Coworkers – Information Designers

It’s not just about the words you use

It’s about what you do with them.

If you really want customers to read what you’ve got to say, you’ve got to give it to them in a way that doesn’t scare them off. If you needed to squint to read something, would you put the effort in?

As an information design agency, it’s our job to give Ts & Cs the space they need to do their job properly, building on the structural hierarchies we create with visual elements and carefully thought-out spatial positioning. Words alone can only do so much. It’s important to think about the full package.

Let our information design agency help you

Our team are leaders in packaging up complicated information in new ways that boost engagement, while making sure customers are able to see the full picture.

Because by using clear Ts & Cs as an expectation management tool, you’re actually making them happier.

Want some help you with that? Get in touch.

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