3 Must-have Strategies for Legal Visualization with Examples Before & After

contract design legal design Apr 25, 2024

By Tessa Manuello, Founder & CEO of Legal Creatives | The Legal Designers

In today's fast-paced digital world, the ability to quickly comprehend information is crucial. However, legal documents often present a significant challenge due to their dense text, lack of organization, and limited accessibility. To address these issues, implementing effective visualization strategies is essential. In this article, we'll delve into three must-have strategies for legal visualization, along with before and after examples to illustrate their impact. And here's the best part: it's easier than you think. 

1. Reducing Information Overload Caused by the Wall of Text

In the digital age, people tend to skim rather than thoroughly read due to the abundance of content available. This trend is especially pronounced online where attention spans are short and users prioritize finding specific information quickly. Lengthy legal texts are not suited to this browsing behavior as users prefer concise information. 

Dense blocks of text can pose a significant problem for users for several reasons, making it essential to address and alleviate this issue. Here's why it's a big problem:

  1. Cognitive Overload: When faced with a dense block of text, users may experience cognitive overload. Our brains have limited processing capacity, and dense text can overwhelm this capacity, making it difficult for users to comprehend and retain information effectively. This overload can lead to frustration and disengagement.

  2. Reduced Readability: Dense text often lacks sufficient white space, making it visually unappealing and challenging to read. Without breaks or visual cues, users may struggle to navigate through the content and find the information they need. As a result, they may choose to avoid reading the text altogether, missing out on important details.

  3. Loss of Engagement: Users are more likely to engage with content that is visually appealing and easy to digest. Dense text can deter users from engaging with the document, leading to decreased interest and participation. This lack of engagement can hinder the document's effectiveness in conveying its intended message or achieving its goals.

  4. Accessibility Concerns: Dense text can also present accessibility challenges for users with visual impairments or reading disabilities. Without proper formatting and structure, individuals relying on screen readers or other assistive technologies may struggle to access the information efficiently, further exacerbating the problem of exclusion.

  5. Impact on Decision-Making: In contexts where the document serves as a guide or reference for decision-making, dense text can hinder users' ability to make informed choices. Without clear and concise information, users may overlook critical details or misinterpret the content, leading to suboptimal decisions with potential consequences.

Addressing the issue of dense text is crucial for ensuring that documents effectively communicate information to users and facilitate understanding and engagement.  

Recommended Strategy: Use Skimmable Titles in Legal Documents

An easy way to start solving these problems is to use skimmable and prominent titles, which are headings or titles that are easy to understand and grasp quickly. Skimmable titles are concise and effectively convey the main idea or topic. When they are prominent, these titles are designed to catch the reader's attention and encourage them to delve deeper into the content. 

A skimmable title should be clear, engaging, and able to convey the essence of the content in just a few words. By employing clear and engaging titles, users can easily navigate the document and grasp essential information at a glance.

Let's take a look at a few examples. 

Compare the readability and ease of read between the before and after. Employ skimmable and prominent titles to make each section distinctly stand out. This helps readers find what they needs switfly. Skimmable titles can be used in contracts but also in other documents such as policies.

Privacy policies are notorious for their dense and often overly complicated language. One way to solve this problem is to incorporate key words in a Q&A style into skimmable titles to further enhance its accessibility and usability. This helps both general users and more technically inclined readers skim the document. Here's how skimmable titles can make a privacy policy more user-friendly and easier to read:

  1. Information We Collect

    • Personal Information: What We Gather and Why
    • Cookies and Tracking Technologies: How We Use Them
    • Third-Party Data: Information We Receive from Others
  2. How We Use Your Information

    • Providing Services: Why We Need Your Data
    • Personalization: Tailoring Your Experience
    • Analytics and Improvements: Enhancing Our Services
  3. Sharing and Disclosure

    • Sharing with Third Parties: Who We Share Your Data With
    • Legal Requirements: When We Disclose Your Information
    • Business Transfers: What Happens in a Merger or Acquisition

By breaking down a privacy policy into easily digestible sections with clear and informative titles, users can quickly find the information they need and understand their rights and obligations regarding their personal data.  This approach not only enhances transparency but also fosters trust between the users and the organization. 

2. Creating a Clear and Logical Hierarchy Between Legal & Business Terms

Prioritizing legal terms over business terms results in an illogical document organization for users. Not having a clear and logical organized way of presenting information is often exacerbated by the lack of a visual hierarchy. Without distinct visual cues, readers struggle to identify the information that is most pertinent to their needs, causing confusion for users trying to extract relevant business-related details. 

Placing legal terms before business terms in document organization poses significant challenges for users. Here's why it's a major issue:

  1. User Experience Impacts: When legal terms take precedence over business terms in document organization, the resulting structure may not align with users' mental models or expectations. Users typically approach documents with specific goals or tasks in mind, such as understanding how a service works. If the document organization prioritizes legal terms over business terms, users may struggle to locate the information they need, leading to frustration and dissatisfaction with the user experience.

  2. Inefficient Information Retrieval: Documents that lack a clear and logical organization make it difficult for users to retrieve relevant information efficiently. Without a cohesive structure that follows the natural flow of business processes or user interactions, users may find themselves navigating through disjointed sections or jumping back and forth between different parts of the document in search of answers. This inefficient information retrieval process can waste users' time and diminish their confidence in the document's reliability.

  3. Confusion and Misinterpretation: A lack of clear organization, compounded by the dominance of legal terminology, can lead to confusion and misinterpretation of important details. Users may struggle to discern between legal requirements, contractual obligations, and practical business-related information, resulting in misunderstandings or misapplications of the document's content. This confusion can have real-world consequences, such as non-compliance with regulations or improper implementation of business practices.

  4. Accessibility Concerns: For users with varying levels of literacy or familiarity with legal language, documents that prioritize legal terms without clear organization can be particularly daunting and inaccessible. The absence of a visual hierarchy further compounds this issue, as users rely on visual cues to navigate and understand complex information. Without distinct visual cues to guide them, users with limited literacy or cognitive abilities may feel overwhelmed or excluded from accessing the information they need.

  5. Impact on Decision-Making and Risk Management: In business contexts, clear and logical organization of information is crucial for informed decision-making and risk management. If users struggle to extract relevant business-related details from a document due to its disorganized structure or heavy reliance on legal terms, they may inadvertently overlook important considerations or make uninformed decisions. This can expose individuals and organizations to unnecessary risks and liabilities, undermining the document's intended purpose of providing guidance and clarity.

Addressing the problem of prioritizing legal terms over business terms in document organization requires a user-centric approach that considers the needs, expectations, and cognitive abilities of the document's intended audience. By adopting a clear and logical organizational structure, incorporating user-friendly language, and establishing a visual hierarchy that highlights key information, organizations can enhance the usability, accessibility, and effectiveness of their documents, ultimately improving the user experience and supporting better decision-making.

Recommended Strategy: Enhance Document Clarity with a Well-Structured Layout

Organizing information in a logical hierarchy, prioritizing business terms, and utilizing visual cues such as prominent titles and text boxes can significantly improve document clarity. By prioritizing business terms, which are typically more relevant to the parties involved, and employing visual hierarchy techniques, the presentation of information can be significantly improved for users. 

A well-designed layout indeed promotes seamless navigation through a document, aiding users not only in locating information efficiently but also enhancing their comprehension of the content.

Here's an example:

Compare the visual appeal and ease of read information between the before and afterIn the initial version of the document, the text is presented as a dense block without distinct visual cues or hierarchy. Users are confronted with a wall of text, making it challenging to navigate and extract relevant information efficiently. The lack of visual differentiation between sections or key points further compounds the issue, resulting in a monotonous and overwhelming reading experience. 

To improve usability and accessibility, employ colors and visual cues to create a clear visual hierarchy. In this revised version, each section header is clearly differentiated by using bold text and a distinctive color, improving readability and guiding users' navigation. The use of color helps users quickly identify different sections, making it easier to locate relevant information. Additionally, the use of a larger font size for the main headers further emphasizes their importance and helps establish a clear visual hierarchy.

Overall, these visual enhancements make the document more visually appealing, user-friendly, and accessible to its real users, enhancing their experience and understanding of the content. 

3. Increase Accessibility beyond the stark Black & White and through the Use of Navigation Features

Legal documents with their stark black text on white backgrounds lack visual distinction and fail to reflect the unique identity or branding of the organization they represent. What's more to that, black and white documents diminish legibility, readability and accessibility. The predominant use of black and white presents a substantial barrier for users with disabilities, exacerbating their challenges in engaging with the content.

Here's why this is a substantial problem:

  1.  Diminished Legibility and Readability: The predominant use of stark black text on white backgrounds in legal documents can significantly diminish legibility and readability. The high-contrast combination of black and white may cause visual strain, particularly for individuals with visual impairments or reading difficulties. Moreover, prolonged exposure to such high-contrast environments can lead to eye fatigue and discomfort, further hampering users' ability to engage with the content effectively.

  2. Accessibility Barriers: Black and white documents pose substantial barriers for users with disabilities, exacerbating their challenges in accessing and engaging with the content. Individuals with visual impairments, such as low vision or color blindness, may struggle to discern text against the background or differentiate between sections without sufficient visual cues. Moreover, users with cognitive disabilities may find it challenging to process dense blocks of black text on white backgrounds, leading to comprehension difficulties and disengagement.

  3. Ineffective Communication: Legal documents serve as critical communication tools, conveying important information, rights, and obligations to various stakeholders. However, the lack of visual distinction and accessibility features in black and white documents undermines their effectiveness in communicating complex legal concepts and requirements. Without adequate visual cues and inclusive design elements, users may struggle to navigate the content, extract relevant information, and make informed decisions, ultimately diminishing the document's utility and impact.

Additionally, the absence of navigation makes document static and out of synch with new reading habits cause by the digital world. It presents a significant challenge for users, hindering their ability to efficiently locate and access relevant information. Without adequate navigation features, users may feel disoriented and frustrated, leading to a suboptimal user experience. Here's why the absence of navigation is a notable issue: 

  1. Difficulty Finding Information: A document without navigation forces users to rely solely on scrolling or flipping through pages to find the information they need. This linear approach can be time-consuming and inefficient, especially in lengthy documents or complex materials. Users may become overwhelmed or give up altogether if they cannot quickly locate the content they're looking for, resulting in frustration and decreased engagement.

  2.  Reduced User Engagement: Effective navigation encourages users to explore and interact with the document, fostering deeper engagement and participation. Without navigation features to facilitate exploration, users may feel passive or disengaged, simply skimming through the content rather than actively seeking out relevant information. This lack of engagement diminishes the document's effectiveness in conveying its message or achieving its intended goals, as users are less likely to invest time and attention in digesting the content.

  3. Accessibility Concerns: Navigation features play a crucial role in ensuring accessibility for all users, including those with disabilities or impairments. For example, users who rely on screen readers or keyboard navigation may encounter barriers when attempting to navigate a document without clear navigation cues. Additionally, users with cognitive disabilities may struggle to orient themselves within the content without visual indicators of structure and organization. The absence of navigation exacerbates these accessibility challenges, creating barriers to equitable access and inclusion.

Legal documents are essential representations of an organization's policies, values, and commitments. The use of Black and White and the absence of navigation creates a missed opportunity for accessibility, readability and legibility. 

Recommended Strategy: Create Branded Legal Docs with Navigation Features to Increase Usability & Accessibility

Aligning with the organization's brand not only enhances their visual appeal of legal documents but also transforms them into powerful business tools that benefit both the business and its users. Additionally, legal documents become more accessible to individuals with visual impairments or cognitive disabilities. Branded documents with navigation features are easier to navigate, comprehend, and interact with for all users. 

Here's an example:

Incorporating clear and intuitive navigation features is essential for enhancing the user experience, promoting effective communication, and ensuring equitable access to information for all users. Whether through clickable tables of contents, top menus, or other navigation aids, providing users with guidance and structure is paramount to optimizing the usability and effectiveness of the document.

The Benefits of Implementing these 3 Must-Have Legal Visualization

By implementing these strategies, legal documents can experience a myriad of benefits:

  • Enhanced readability and comprehension
  • Improved user engagement and satisfaction
  • Increased efficiency in finding information
  • Greater accessibility for all users
  • Reinforced brand identity and professionalism

Effective legal visualization goes beyond aesthetics—it's about conveying information clearly and efficiently. By embracing these strategies, you can create documents that are not only legally accurate but also user-friendly and accessible. Don't underestimate the power of visual communication in transforming your legal practice. Your clients—and your bottom line—will thank you for it!

Additionally, these solutions are very easy to implement and can be entirely done in MS Word. This means all of these features can be done in the MS Suite at 0 extra costs. This means anyone can quickly and effortlessly redesign legal documents just by filly exploiting the potential of MS Suite. 

Take Action Now! Here is How:

You don't need advanced skills or specialized tools to improve your legal documents. Document redesign is not rocket science—it's a structured process, backed by science. Everything can be done inside the Microsoft Suite at no extra costs. Even minor enhancements can make a significant difference in usability and accessibility.

If you're serious about enhancing your legal documents, take our hands-on training with our Visual Lawyer Bootcamp or get your legal documents redesigns done for you by The Legal Designers.

"If you're interested in improving contract drafting, legal design or visualization of legal terms I cannot recommend this course enough. It's very hands on and practical AND you will leave with tons of knowledge and a feeling of being able to do so much more than you thought. Also, the prizes are something else and totally worth the effort! I loved that to see we are all actively learning and doing during the course. I knew having this structure would help me actually learn. Today I feel so much more confident about my skills and these techniques are all backed by research! "

- Louise, In-house counsel (Denmark)

I've received a lot of demand for our Visual Lawyer Bootcamp, as our cohort is now going through the course, we've decided to give you a chance to enroll now and get EARLY START without having to wait for the next cohort. If you're interested visit now: legalcreatives.com/bootcamp