I have many years’ experience of planning information projects, both as part of an expert in-house team and as an external consultant.
When planning a project, we need to ask…
- Who is it for?
- What is the purpose?
- What is available already?
- What needs to be covered?
- Who else should be involved?
- What format is best?
- Are there any particular needs of the audience that must be considered?
- What are the costs?
- How will we measure success?
Early consultation with stakeholders, both consumers and experts, can help define requirements and ultimately help to ensure that information will be fit for purpose.
Rigorous gathering and assessment of health, scientific and clinical information is also needed before we can know what resources are already available and what the new information needs to say. This can include online and paper-based research, as well as consultation with expert opinion leaders and stakeholders.
The initial drafting, plus consideration for the design and the artwork to be included, involves pulling together all the sources gathered and fitting them together. Ideally this involves close working with an editorial team. I am also meticulous with recording changes as they are made to drafts, and the reasons for the changes, so that everything can be traced back.
Collaboration with users
A variety of techniques can be used to involve users at each stage of development – for example, focus groups, 1:1 interviews, online discussions and questionnaires.
- Collaboration with consumers helps set the scope and direction of what is needed
- Reviews at draft stages give further steer on the content and feel for the proposed information.
- Diagnostic user-testing of information is recommended for all consumer information to ensure readers can read and understand it.
After so many years of writing consumer health information, I work instinctively within the rules set by, for example, the Plain English Campaign and Discern. Nevertheless, I remain up to date with the latest guidelines on writing for non-experts and find user-testing a constant reminder of the needs of the readers.
I am also comfortable working with organisations that have the Information Standard accreditation. This is an NHS England certification programme for all organisations producing evidence-based health and care information for the public. They must show that the information they produce is clear, accurate, balanced, evidence-based and up to date. Certified organisations have shown commitment to high-quality evidence-based information and that their internal processes are ‘fit for purpose’. It helps the public and professionals to quickly identify reliable sources of information through an easily recognised quality mark.