Most people need insurance at some point in their lives but so few people read the small print before buying it. It’s not laziness on the part of the customer, member or consumer – it’s lazy content and bad design.
At Co-op Insurance, we’ve been making changes to our marketing terms and conditions (T&Cs) because we believe that everyone deserves to understand what they’re agreeing to when they tick a box or sign their name.
Part of my job as a direct marketing consultant at Co-op Insurance is to look after the leaflets and customer letters we send out. I teamed up with Sophy Colbert (a content designer at Co-op Digital at the time) to work out how we could present the small print in a clearer, more succinct way so we don’t alienate people with legal jargon.
Understanding the challenges
Regulations from the Financial Conduct Authority mean that there are certain things that we need to include. Thankfully, how we say them can sometimes be flexible. But writing T&Cs that are easy to understand, as well as legally compliant, isn’t easy.
When writing the legal parts, there’s a tendency to include more information to be certain that all bases are covered – there’s a misconception that saying something in a long-winded way might reduce risk. This is not only problematic from a plain English point of view but also in terms of the limited space there is.
We believe that through good content design and good visual design we can move away from this approach: instead we can say things once, clearly.
A simpler layout
Before we changed much of the copy, we changed the layout. Here’s an example of a leaflet from May 2017:
And here’s our communication from June 2018:
Putting the terms into columns and adding subheadings makes the content feel less daunting because the shorter lines make it easier to read. Laying things out like this also makes it easier for us to check there isn’t any repetition.
Making the language accessible
According to the National Literacy Trust, around 15%, or 5.1 million adults in England have literacy levels at, or below, those expected of an 11-year-old. This means they can understand short, simple texts from everyday sources on familiar topics, but reading information from unfamiliar sources, or on unfamiliar topics like terms and conditions for example, is likely to be difficult for them.
With this in mind we’ve:
- Explained any terminology that we’ve been advised not to reword completely.
- Got rid of repetition.
- Been consistent with our choice of language.
- Improved the flow of the copy by taking out a lot of the brackets and incorporating information into the main sentences.
Nobody should be excluded from understanding what they’re agreeing to. Communicating simply and clearly is not only the right thing to do but it will help us build greater trust.
Increasing white space
Adjusting the space between letters and lines of text can make a big difference to how easy the copy is to read. We’ve made the size of the terms text slightly smaller than it was before, which might seem counterintuitive, but doing this meant we could add more space between individual letters, making it easier for the eye to identify the shape of a word. Making the type slightly smaller also means that we can increase the line spacing, or ‘leading’, slightly which makes it easier to scan.
The right thing to do
We believe we have a responsibility to make our marketing easy to understand and accessible to all customers and potential customers. This is our first step. We know we have a long way to go but content designers across Co-op are committed to inclusive design.
It’ll take time but we’ll get there.
Give us your feedback
We’d like your feedback on how we can improve further. How can we open up our communication more so that it’s accessible to even more people? Let us know in the comments.
Vicky Lowry, direct marketing consultant at Co-op Insurance
Sophy Colbert, content designer (ex) Co-op Digital