What exactly is gobbledygook? The dictionary definition is “language characterized by circumlocution and jargon, usually hard to understand.”
(Is it just me? Or is it ironic that a dictionary definition of gobbledygook includes an obscure 5-syllable word (circumlocution) that could just as easily have been “wordiness?” Just thinking…)
In the late 1990s my doctor suggested I head over to the local academic medical center where a research project was underway to discover the genes associated with my autoimmune condition. That’s when I came face-to-face with my first consent form and the inevitable tradeoff patients make when presented with pages of gobbledygook punctuated by a signature line: either sacrifice understanding in the name of contributing to the greater good, or politely decline.
You’d think that people would know better by now than to use “Click here” for links. It’s not like they haven’t been told.
But I still see it on all the sites, all the time–commercial, entertainment, news, and–even considering Section 508–government sites of all kinds, federal, state, and city.
So I’m taking this opportunity to show you why it’s wrong.
As members of the Office of Disease Prevention and Health Promotion (ODPHP) health literacy team, we are committed to promoting the use of health literacy principles. We recently took a deep dive into the online user experience to write the second edition of Health Literacy Online: A Guide to Simplifying the User Experience, and are honored to have been recognized with a Clear Mark Award for our efforts. We learned a lot about the challenges many people face using health websites. We wanted to share some lessons we learned with those of you who are involved in creating online health content—writers and editors, content managers, digital strategists, user experience strategists, web designers, developers, and other public health communication professionals.
My office has a break room with the usual appointments: tables, chair, refrigerators, vending machines, microwave, Keurig, electric teakettle. And a bulletin board.
I was pleased to see the bulletin board because there’s always so many interesting things there. Some of us bring back menus from local restaurants, some others post current events, others bring in things like the card for the mobile bike repair shop on 18th Street.