25 September 2023

DHS sails into plain English award

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The Department of Human Services (DHS) has received rare recognition from the Australian Plain English Foundation for its website, which the foundation judged to be the best it had ever evaluated.

The Department’s website received the Foundation’s gold certification, which had been tightened from 80 per cent to 85 per cent in recent years reflecting the Foundation’s research showing public expectations around website usability had lifted.

Even so, the DHS website still achieved the certification, scoring 88 per cent in the Foundation’s 2018 review.

Chief Website Editor at DHS, Julie Watkins-Lyall (pictured) said the website was tested against 13 areas to measure how easy it was to find and understand information.

“Before the review, expert staff at the Department looked at the website’s design, improved the search function, and tested usability,” Ms Watkins-Lyall said.

“The team also reviewed 100 payments and services pages and re-wrote more than 140,000 words,” she said.

“Specialist writers and an editorial team made sure the format and structure of the site met the audience need.”

She said the Plain English Foundation found that on the whole, the DHS website was now “so clear that the intended audience can easily find what they need, understand what they find, and use that information”.

Ms Watkins-Lyall said. The website attracted more than 90 million unique visits a year from people with diverse backgrounds and reading abilities.

“People are using the website six million times a month to manage their business with us so we have to make sure they can find and understand the information they need.”

She said access to information was a basic human right and DHS had to make sure its information and services were accessible to all Australians, including those with disabilities and special needs.

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