Evaluation of the Better Information Handbook
The Better Information Handbook was produced by ASA's Advicenow project to support the development of better public legal information. The Handbook sits alongside training courses, a consultancy service, a website, and a quick guide to better information - “21 steps to Better Information”. (Go to the Better Information website for more details or to order a copy of the Handbook).
Download the Evaluation report and Executive summary (281 KB)
The evaluation was limited by available resources, and to offer the best chance of a reasonable assessment of the Handbook, a two-stage process was used. Stage 1 consisted of a small number of semi-structured interviews with users, the results of which informed a survey of as many respondents as possible conducted through a self-completion questionnaire delivered and returned by email. The questionnaire was sent to 44 users, and 23 responses were received, of which 18 were completed questionnaires.
Most respondents were experienced writers/editors, with some advisers who also wrote information, and a handful of writers/editors who had supervisory and other management responsibilities. One respondent had policy responsibilities. All worked in collaboration with colleagues or in formal teams. There were no inexperienced writers or editors among respondents.
The survey showed how these users of the Handbook were making use of it in their day-to-day work. Most described the Handbook as having a general positive influence on their work, and around half had used it to help with specific projects. This positive result was reinforced by the very favourable assessments offered by users, whose descriptions of its value to them were overall extremely positive. Criticisms were made of some specific points, including length, the presentation of examples, some aspects of the structure, and the use of web links.
The report concludes that the Handbook is proving useful to experienced users whose work styles are collaborative. As there were no notably different work styles among respondents, it has not been possible to assess its value to ‘stand-alone’ writers. Similarly, the lack of organisational level managers and insufficient policy people among respondents has prevented the report from commenting on their uses of the Handbook or their sense of its value.
The report also points to some important limitations to the freedom some writers and editors have to develop information resources that best meet the needs of their target audiences. More than half of respondents report that both production and consultation processes are fixed by their organisations, and that the corporate style governs the overall design and appearance of their work. The report recommends that action be taken by Advicenow to work with organisations to encourage them to change their approach to information development to enable writers and editors to produce information that best meets the needs of their audiences.