Sense Making Optimisation: an introduction

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Have you heard of Search Engine Optimisation?  It helps ensure people can find your information online.

But what’s the point of making your information easy to find, if it’s too difficult to understand? Sense Making Optimisation is a new concept in communication planning and practice, providing a strategic, holistic approach to create information that’s easier to understand and use.

The need for Sense Making Optimisation

Adult literacy data gives a bleak picture for communication practice: almost half the adult population regularly finds unadapted information too difficult to understand. There is also growing evidence that traditional simplification techniques, popularised by Plain English and Easy Read, can actually increase difficulty for people with medium to low literacy, and communication needs.

Sense Making Optimisation enhances accessibility and retention, whilst reducing misunderstanding and disengagement, by responding to your audiences’ language, literacy and knowledge needs.

A new communications approach

Sense Making Optimisation embraces, expands and improves on traditional simplification techniques, found in Plain English and Easy Read, and increases inclusion for people with low literacy and communication disabilities.

Sense Making Optimisation isn’t just for disadvantaged groups: it is for all audience groups.

Understanding your audiences’ language and literacy needs is a vital, and neglected, component of customer segmentation and communication planning. Sense Making Optimisation integrates your customers’ content needs with their language and literacy needs, takes the guesswork out of language adaptation, and bridges the information accessibility gap.

What is Sense Making Optimisation?

Sense Making Optimisation is a strategic, holistic approach to inclusive communication planning, delivery and evaluation. It maximises (optimises) how easy information is to understand and use, by recognising comprehensions as an interpretative process (sense making), influenced by multilevel factors (see Accessible Information Ladder).

Sense Making Optimisation addresses these elements in a structured way, using inclusive user involvement, evidence based frameworks, accredited training, and professional skills.

Benefits of Sense Making Optimisation

Sense Making Optimisation:

  • maximises customer understanding, and organisation resources
  • is based on customers’ needs and preferences
  • is evolving and responsive, to new ideas and research
  • focuses on processing and interpretation (sense making), not reading
  • is suitable for traditional and digital media, including audio and video scripts
  • supports interpersonal communications
  • reduces the need for a dual system of adaptation (eg. Easy Read and unadapted), and removes arbitrary cut off points
  • promotes inclusion, by meeting the needs of all customers, including carers and support workers in health and social care
  • is consistent with the social model of disability
  • increases validity of user testing
  • manages customer expectations, with realistic claims of accessibility
  • promotes professionalism in communication practice

Sense Making Optimisation in practice

Sense Making Optimisation is a flexible, responsive tool for communication practitioners and information providers. Nevertheless, there are constraints to practice, which include:

  1. The need to manage resources effectively – it is unrealistic to produce communications adapted to every user’s unique language, literacy, content and communication needs.
  2. The structure and limitations of language – how we adapt language is partly determined by the structure of language, and the purpose of the document. There is a limit to how much we can adapt without loss of meaning, and writers and information providers have no absolute control over how information is interpreted by the recipient.

Sense Making Optimisation’s standard options

To meet these constraints, and provide a framework for communication practice, Inklecomms provides three standard options for inclusive communications, which incorporate different levels of adaptation.

These options are applicable to written information, and information in other formats and channels, including digital and auditory media.

Sense Making Optimisation also supports bespoke communications, and can be adapted for other languages.

More information and resources

Inklecomms provides advice, audits, implementation and training in Sense Making Optimisation.

We also provide a quality mark to indicate information has been optimised for sense making.

For more information, please contact us.

For free resources to create and evaluate accessible information, see the Accessible Information Ladder.

To learn more, see Sense Making Optimisation, or sign up to receive Inklecomms’ blogs, on the right.


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