Far too much policy is dumped straight on the web.
- Policy is often legitimately complex.
- Policy is always hard to write and usually hard to read.
- People need instructions or procedures more often than policy.
Consultation policy documents need to be on the web, and government policy needs to be on the web. But once the policy of a non-government organisation or business is finalised, it's usually only consulted by staff. That policy belongs out of public view—maybe on the intranet.
If you are trying to untangle policy for publication as useful information on the web, here are some tips.
1. Don't start with the policy. Don't cut and paste. Don't rehash policy for the web. Instead, ask what your target audience really wants and needs. Is it a long-winded explanation of your policy? If not, start planning a new page from scratch.
2. Start with the people. Let people self-select into an appropriate category. Then they need to read only the information that applies to them. Use yes-no questions, for example: Are you under 18?
3. Focus on the task. Don't try to combine instructions and procedures with the reasons behind them. Most readers just want to know what they have to do in order to achieve their goal.
4. If you must publish your organisation's policy (perhaps for legal reasons), consider providing the original, authoritative document policy without editing. Maybe even (gulp! shock! horror!) as a PDF.