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Live from HITMC: Words Matter

Words Matter – How ASCO (American Society of Clinical Oncology) Quality Checks Written Content for Clarity, by Lindsay Dudbridge, Fergal McGovern

Words matter. Current content audit methods struggle with:

  • Where to focus
  • Objective measurement is hard
  • Manual processes cause a lot of people to do non-systematic spot checks
  • UX focuses on wireframes and graphics, not readability

American Society of Clinical Oncology (ASCO) runs cancer.net. One of the challenges is that content is reviewed by medical experts, and then needs to be simplified for the general public. People get easily overwhelmed, confused, distressed. So they need to be clear.

They went to VisibleThread for a solution. 

VisibleThread actually did a better job of identifying content needing than edits than the humans did. VisibleThread analyzes a page by clicking a button, or they can look back at an old analysis. Then they assign it to a writer to update.

Visible thread identifies passive voice, underlines long words (that may need to be changed, or in healthcare may need definitions), etc.

Over the past two years, their site has gone from 17% under grade 8 reading level, to 61%. (Huge improvement!)

Feedback has been fantastic. Lots of complements on the readability, increased traffic on the site, increased downloads. Plus, Google accounts for clarity, plain language is getting a push from Federal and State groups, and so there are plenty of longer term benefits.

Marli Mesibov

Marli is a content strategist with a passion for the user experience. Her work spans websites, web applications, and mobile. Marli is the director of content strategy at the UX agency Mad*Pow, and she serves as managing editor at UX Booth, a publication about all areas of user experience. Marli is a frequent conference speaker, and has spoken at conferences including Content Strategy Forum and LavaCon. She can also be found on Twitter, where she shares thoughts on content strategy, literature, and Muppets.

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