Usability Testing and Marketing Materials Redesign at TIAA-CREF

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Usability testing to ensure the clear understanding of financial material is a critical component of successful communication. Unfortunately, many organizations pay too little, if any, attention to it, and too often fail to apply any findings they do generate to the actual design of the materials they create.

This session examines several TIAA-CREF pension marketing documents that leveraged usability testing to develop guidelines for redesigning them. It will discuss the participants’ emotional and intellectual responses to the original documents and will describe how TIAA-CREF then redesigned them in response. The documents covered include the minimum distribution letter, the purpose of which was to alert retirees to the IRS requirement for distribution of IRA funds and to compel them to call TIAA-CREF. The new document substantially increased the rate of call-ins and the level of understanding among participants.

Following this session, attendees will:

• Understand the emotional responses from those reading complex financial information
• Learn how results of a usability study can impact the design of marketing materials
• Identify the key components to redesign for populations nearing retirement


Deborah S. Bosley, The Plain Language Group; University of North Carolina, and Olympia Moukas, TIAA-CREF

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