Case study

Stakeholder engagement brings consensus on plain language

Client: Federal government agency
Activity: Content design
Project: Content-driven design and development for new website

By bringing together stakeholders from a government agency’s legal, policy, operations and communications departments, Weave created plain-language definitions to help users understand complex legal and technical terms.

In the client’s words

‘Weave’s workshop with stakeholders to develop a glossary achieved two things: not just agreement on terms, but also bringing stakeholders along the journey.’ – Delivery Manager, Innovation and Technology Solutions


With content driving the development of this federal government agency's new website, we took our client from content strategy to launch. Our work, which was completed within 12 months, included information architecture, visual design, development in GovCMS8, content design and a full content rewrite.

The agency regulates business and organisations based on complex legislation. Its users vary widely, from compliance experts within large corporates to non-English speakers in microbusinesses. 

The problem

When creating content, we couldn’t completely avoid using complex legal and technical terms. Expert users understood these terms well, but less expert users had trouble fully grasping them, while those new to the agency had never encountered them at all.

There was no single source of truth on what terms meant. Instead, there were more than five glossaries scattered around the previous website, some with different definitions of the same term.

What we did

By talking to these diverse users about how they used the website, we learned that their needs were different. Expert users needed to get to the meaning of the content without being distracted by lengthy in-text definitions of terms they already knew, while novice users needed to have easy access to definitions of terms they found confusing. Many users told us they expected content in plain English.

Our solution was a clickable glossary. This decreased repetition and the amount of text on the page, and therefore the cognitive load on readers, but made it easy for people to find the meaning of difficult technical terms. 

To develop the glossary, we held 2 full-day stakeholder workshops with 8 representatives from the agency, including people from the legal, policy, operations and communications departments.

We started with plain-language definitions written by the Weave content designers, then asked the participants for input. We worked through the terms one-by-one until there was consensus around a definition.

The Weave content designers guided participants through the process, helping them balance the demands of legal accuracy with the plain language approach mandated by the Digital Service Standard.

The results

Despite the diversity of views in the room, we were able to reach consensus on definitions for all terms which are legally accurate while still being clear and understandable.

What happened next

Because the workshop participants had been deeply involved in the process, final approvals for the definitions were given very quickly. The glossary is now live on the site.

Extensive user research and identification of top tasks informed a content strategy that was the basis of the information architecture, design and content of an entirely new website. Content was created according to a content design approach. This is how:

  • user research for top tasks identification

  • content design of interactive wizard

  • stakeholder workshops for a plain language glossary

  • usability testing prior to launch.