What are Communication Benchmarks?

  • measures of the communication practices used by business and government in their communication with the public
  • quantified data on the number and types of faults in public documents
  • measurements showing how far short or above acceptable performance levels public documents stand
  • diagnostic data on the causes of faults in public documents

What are public documents

  • voice systems
  • forms
  • legal documents,
  • bills
  • letters
  • product labelling
  • consumer instructions
  • websites

the stuff of ordinary life that originates from business and government and makes up a large part of the daily communication between organisations and the public.

Origins of baseline measurements

We did our early benchmarking research at the baseline measurement stage of projects, helping our Member organisations improve their communication with the public.baseline measurement in information design

When used as part of our design process, the data provided us with valuable insights into what was wrong with their current practice. Additionally, we were able to refer to the baseline measurement data at the Testing and Monitoring stages of the process to detect and quantify any improvements resulting from a new prototype.

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Background to our next study

Over the last 10 years we expanded the scope and application of our benchmarking research, taking them out of their specific role within the design process for particular information documents, and using them as stand-alone studies of whole classes of information, calling these studies Communication Benchmarks.

In the mid-1990s CRI undertook Communication Benchmarks studies in Australia of banking websites, medicine labelling, Statements of Advice (SOA) for financial products, government and business forms, utility bills, standard letters, Consumer Medicines Information (CMI), insurance policy documents, and many other types of designed information.

Detailed data from many of these these studies are available to CRI Members.

Wherever possible, we avoid drawing attention to specific institutions. We have no interest in ‘naming and shaming’. Rather, our interest is in drawing attention to current public communication practices, in order to help a whole industry improve its practices in the future. The data we provide establish the communication benchmarks against which we can measure future improved practices.

Our next Communication Benchmark study

This Communication Benchmarks is the second international study of a document that is in widespread use around the world, and which has attracted considerable public attention: Credit Card Statements (CCS).

All those involved in the first research study were volunteers. Eleven CRI Fellows and Subscribers from Australia, Austria, Chile, Netherlands, Portugal, South Africa, UK and USA gave freely of their time as investigators on the project, and they recruited other volunteers to participate in the study. The whole project was managed by Alex Tyers in Melbourne.

The full report was the result of their collective efforts and collaboration. Both the investigators and participants have made an important contribution to our field.

The first Communication Benchmark study of CSS coincided with the General Financial Crisis. 10 Years on we want to revisit CCS to see what if any changes have occured.