Live from ConfabEU: Legal content as part of the user experience

Legal content as part of the user experience, by Frances Gordon

logo-smallWhat is legal content?

  • It’s intended to have two reasonable people understand one another.
  • But to consumers, it’s often not valuable.
  • Young users say they don’t know what it means, and they don’t care.
  • Older (more cynical) users say “this is how you’ll screw me if something goes wrong.”
  • To corporations, it’s a necessary evil.
  • To content professionals its unnecessary and evil.
  • It is NOT currently a meeting of the minds.


Legal content is going to matter more to content professionals though, because…

  • Consumers are becoming more protected by laws and regulations – so more content needs legal sign off.
  • Increased awareness of issues such as privacy and security, people are more interested in terms and conditions.

Frances learned when living in Johannesburg that most people didn’t know what their rights were.

  • Created an app that would read aloud rights – because people couldn’t hear.
  • Made it so the app was easy to access and specified the rights for any jail.
  • Just one example of how we can make legal content more accessible.

What IS legal content?

  • Is the rest of the content illegal?
  • Why is it all capital letters? Are we more likely to read it?
  • Much legal content doesn’t include hyperlinks to help people find what’s valuable to them, and it doesn’t say anything in handy, friendly copy.
  • “Tick this box if you agree with the terms and conditions” means “We know you won’t click, and if you do you won’t be able to wade through the pages of legalese.”

When we ask users if they’re interested in terms and conditions, they say many different things.

UX isn’t just about giving people the information they want, but also giving them the information they need.

Legal content currently is bad on every level:

  • Bad for business.
  • Bad for the brand, as copy is convoluted and unclear.
  • Unfair to the user.
  • Frequently not legally binding.

There’s no reason for content strategists to avoid lawyers.

  • Lawyers are nice.
  • Lawyers are smart.
  • Lawyers argue issues, not people.
  • Lawyers understand consulting.
  • Lawyers work in multiple areas:
    • External law firm
    • Internal firm for the business
    • Internal compliance team
  • Generally speaking, corporate lawyers:
    • Enjoy the law
    • Enjoy criticism
    • Enjoy detail
    • Very pragmatic
    • They don’t like change.
    • They aren’t comfortable with technology.
    • Their job is to reduce the risk of litigation – not UX or ROI.
  • Collaboration – a collaborative process
    • Create legal if/then scenarios – show how content will reduce the chance of litigation in real-world scenarios.
    • Terminology workshops – show them you know what you’re talking about as well.
      • Look at the copy and circle any words that you’re unclear what they mean from a legal perspective.
    • Rewrite clauses independently of each other.
      • Cut out the unclear words, and write up new terms that make sense in the empty spaces.
      • Identify the “terms of art” – legal term with a legal meaning that we have to accept.
      • Luckily, terms of art are only 3% of most contracts!!
      • Legalese (not terms of art) are the problem – henceforth, aforesaid, set forth, hereof, notwithstanding – these can be replaced with real words!
    • Present and discuss in person
    • Get a formal sign off
    • Incorporate tone – after the first level of sign off with clear communication
    • Get (another) formal sign off
    • Tag, structure, and situate in content strategy!

Remember that terms and conditions (legal content in general) is STILL CONTENT and needs work!

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