Repeat after me: no-one cares about our policies

Ah, policies.  The lifeblood of any bureaucratic organisation.  One of the most important parts of the internal machine and something you’re encouraged to memorise as a loyal corporate or Government worker.

But when it comes to your web site, repeat after me: no-one care about our policies.

I’m working on a site at the moment.  It’s a massive site – about 120 pages of information so it’s fairly information-rich.  I’ve worked with the organisation on their site map and reorganising their information to be more customer-centric and less about themselves.

They nodded a lot in that discussion and asked a total of five questions as we went through the site map.  Every one of those questions related to their policies – where would they be, could they be easily accessed by users, their preference for HTML over PDF policies and (my personal favourite) could we do a button on the home page so people could go straight to the policies?

In an hour’s discussion over 120 pages and how they fit together, the client was only interested in the policies.

Newsflash to everyone writing a web site: no-one cares about your policies.  What they care about is how those policies impact on their life through your improved service or focus on their needs.

For example, on a school web site, prospective parents don’t want to read your anti-harrassment policy – they want to know that you’re focussed on preventing bullying and have taken steps to protect their child.  On a government web site, customers don’t want to know you have a customer complaint policy, they want the phone number to call and an assurance they’ll speak to a real person who will fix their problem or answer their question.

So, when writing, remember that.  Policies are internal documents that drive a business and its behaviour.  They aren’t public documents – in fact, they often get in the way of the information that the person really wants.

And, if you’re having trouble remembering, repeat after me: no-one cares about our policies.

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