Design to read framework: audiences and advice

At the workshop in Liverpool in September 2008, we learned about:

  • some of the reasons why people may find reading difficult
  • some of the guidelines and design approaches we use: our advice

Our audiences: reasons why people may find reading difficult

In the workshop, we discussed these different types audiences and reasons why people might find reading difficult:

  • Visual impairment (example: reading with glaucoma)
  • Unfamiliar with concepts in the materials (example: a technical manual that uses variations of terms for the same thing)
  • Learning disabilities
  • Stressful context (example: someone working in a call centre)
  • Low literacy
  • Aging
  • Materials too small / illegible / complex

We also noted other audiences, such as people with other cognitive difficulties such as autism or attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, people who are reading in a second language and children. We hope that people with experience in designing for those audiences may come to a future workshop so that we can include their point of view.

Our advice: guidelines and design approaches that we use

We also discussed the guidelines and design approaches that we use or recommend when designing for people who do not read easily. These guidelines and approaches included one or more of the these different aspects of design:

Physical: appearance, perception, legibility, presentation style, layout, format

Language: reading level, vocabulary, tone of voice

Content: usefulness, meaningfulness, sequence of ideas

Relationship: overall intent of the product, reasons why a user wants to read it

Structure: how this product fits with others e.g. web page into a web site; how concepts fit together; navigation

Mechanisms: content management systems, search tools, semantic web

Assistive technologies: screen magnifiers, screen readers, portable devices

A framework of audiences and advice

We tried to place examples of the audiences and advice that we mentioned in the workshop into a framework: the table below.

As time goes on, we plan to include:

  • more examples of audiences
  • links to resources for the different types of advice

We also welcome discussion. Is having a framework like this helpful? Please contact us with your views.

Visual impairment Unfamiliar with the concepts Learning disabilities Stressful context Low literacy Ageing (including uneasy with technology) Materials too small/complex/

illegible

Physical (appearance, perception, legibility, presentation style, layout, format) Guidelines for designing for people with glaucoma Easy Read: large type and pictures Design guidance for low vision, clearer text
Language (reading level, vocabulary, tone of voice) Controlled vocabularies Easy Read: simple language Plain language
Content (usefulness, meaningfulness, sequence of ideas) Choice of controlled vocabulary Easy Read: simple sentences and ideas Careful choice of content Appropriate content for older people; WCAG guidelines on content
Relationship (overall intent of the product, reasons why user wants to read it) Job design; improved business policies
Structure (how this product fits with others e.g. web page into a web site; how concepts fit together, navigation) WCAG guidelines on navigation
Mechanisms (content management systems, search tools, semantic web) Using the Semantic Web to simplify searching
Assistive technologies Using a telephone camera as an intelligent magnifier