Contracts are primarily communication tools that help various people to do their jobs. To function as an effective communication tool, contract design must consider all users.
We have seen how complex and not user-friendly modern contracts are. The documents are written in black and white text, using " legalese" language, with no page layout design. As a result, contracts often end up in drawers and are unused. So how can contracts be designed so that everyone can read and understand them? And why is it so important to make it user-friendly in the first place?
So, while legalese is still the standard in contracts, there is a shift towards more user-friendly documents written in plain language. And the reason is simple: it's a smart business decision.
Here are some pointers as to why contracts should be user-friendly:
Everyone Saves Time
At first, the transition to creating documents in plain language can be difficult for those who know how to write in legal language. Until the old habit breaks, drafting contracts may take longer. But with practice or using templates, it takes just as much, if not less, time to create a plain language document.
In addition, that’s not the only reason why you’ll save time.
Simple language allows you to reduce the time spent on explaining the document to the client. This means that the customer also saves time. The same goes for the people who will need to read the documents and act on them later.
Plain language documents are user-friendly because they provide clarity in the most reliable way.
If people can understand the content of a document on the first reading, they gain confidence. This confidence helps them relax during a process that is often filled with anxiety and reluctance.
Individuals and families want to feel comfortable and confident about what they are signing in the terms of the contract. Providing them with documents in plain language is a strong step in that direction.
Simplifies Useful Conversation
Don't assume that user-friendly documents lessen the need for professional services.
No matter how simple the language in a contract is, there is always a need for professional guidance. The consequences of documents vary depending on the circumstances. Customers should understand the possible and likely consequences before signing.
This is where dialogue comes in.
User-friendly contracts enable the right conversations with people. Instead of spending energy and time deciphering legalese, you and your customers/clients can talk about what it means to them.
Conversations are a good way to discover unique needs and build rapport. Focusing on what the customer needs and wants, rather than words on paper, helps increase the value of your services.
Promotes Customer-First Attitude
Putting the customer first is crucial to creating and maintaining a profitable business.
Creating a customer-centric culture for your business requires more than documents written in plain language. But having user-friendly contracts is one way to determine your commitment to giving your customers what they want and need.
In fact, it's a critical way to "have the conversation." The content of the contract, and the implications of that content for each client's work, are the root of your business. To use an old but understandable expression, this is where the rubber meets the road.
In many ways, signing a contract is when the real test of your business begins. This is also the time when customers will begin to decide whether they will tell their friends and family to use your services.
Using user-friendly documents is a good but subtle marketing tool. It's safe to say that most people don't like professional legal services. It is usually seen as a must-do task rather than a want-to-do one.
So imagine the response if you provide your customers with an agreement in plain language. They'll most likely be shocked and pleased about it.
Combining that answer with your overall excellent customer service skills and word of mouth can be your best lead generator.
Reduces Legal Action Down the Road
At some point, someone other than your client will need to read and understand the documents. This person may be a professional lawyer or a person with no legal training at all.
In any case, user-friendly documents make it easy to take suitable action according to the instructions of the documents.
If these suitable actions are easy for everyone to understand, the likelihood of disputes is reduced.
Of course, it is difficult to determine how the parties would respond to the content of an agreement. However, using simple language can help individuals who are interested feel less nervous and uncertain.
This is especially true if they don't need to rely on a legal language translator to find out what the documents mean to them. Thus, user-friendly documents help unseen customers gain confidence.
Just as the subject is interdisciplinary, contracts are not only legal documents to protect businesses in the event of a dispute, but also management tools to create and maintain positive business relationships and prevent problems from arising.
Crossing the fields of law, managerial economics, information design, and other studies, the work uses a mixed-method approach consisting of qualitative and quantitative research that examines contracting operations as part of business and society.
Speedlegal also had an opportunity to speak with Stefania Passera who is a Founder & Contract designer, at Passera Design, and Paula Doyle, Legal Innovation Advisor, PaLiDa Ltd. about why take the effort to make a contract user-friendly on an episode of Rethinking Legal Ops. They shared their views on what a user-centred contract design process would look like, combining cognitive, textual, and visual considerations to create a comprehensive simplified contract.
Looking at contracts as a user's guide, we talked about how to write a language that can unlock contracts for everyone and make them easy for the audience to understand, organizing the content of the contract in a logical flow, and using visual representations whenever possible. A result is a simplified contract suitable for consumers.
We identified structure, language, and visualization as areas of development to create a contract document that is readable, understandable, and user-friendly for everyone who relies on the information to do their jobs.
Contract development shifts from the traditional copy and pastes prior agreement technique by incorporating design thinking and concentrating on who the audience is.
Watch it HERE!