Rob suggests that bills (and other documents) are read in stages and that the focus changes as they are read and as decisions are made (See his comment below). While I agree with his point, the issue I was addressing has to do with the main purpose (in this case payment of a bill) and how it has been diluted by companies that feel they need to add additional content. My example shows 4 messages that come under the heading of “important”, but they are not as important as paying the bill. The bill detail should be the priority, not the messages. While it may be desirable to add these messages as well as other types of content, keep in mind that payment is the first priority.
Rob’s other comment is in regards to “transpromo” or as Rob says used to be called “relationship communications” or I say used to be called “cross sell.” This is all the same and it is all some form of marketing. Transpromo is utilizing documents to sell other products and services. Often, companies think they need to fill up any “white space” with marketing promotions and messages. While I agree that transactional documents (invoices, bills, statements, etc) are perfect opportunities to market, I believe that companies sometimes go too far and the main purpose of the document becomes diluted.
As an aside “white space” is an important tool in usability. It helps define areas within a document and helps to identify and highlight important information. If this space is used to add marketing messages, ads, etc., then important information becomes harder to find, read and act upon.
The use of transpromo (the current buzz word) in transactional documents needs to be done judicially. If companies go overboard, then customers will stop reading the messages, stop reading the personal information and may, even stop doing business with the company.