This post is intended as a round-up of web and other resources that may be helpful when you are designing for people who do not read easily. It was first published on a dedicated Design to Read website.
Publications by the Design to Read project
- Available on this website: Design to read: designing for people who do not read easily., originally published in User Experience magazine in June 2010
- A chapter in Rhetorical AccessAbility (2013), edited by Lisa Meloncon. Our chapter is “Design to Read” by Caroline Jarrett, Janice (Ginny) Redish and Kathryn Summers. It is an expanded version of article with additional discussion of what it means to have problems with reading.
Other resources and projects
- Fed up with low contrast font colour and unreadable texts? This project aims to fight them: contrast rebellion
- Accessible design is also good design, says Whitney Quesenbury in this useful guide on making your presentations fully accessible to all: Make your presentations accessible: seven easy steps
- One of the most common visual problems is colour blindness, affecting up to 8% of men and a smaller proportion of women: We are Colorblind
- Lisa Herrod’s article on A List Apart discusses the difference between designing for those who are deaf or hard of hearing, and those who consider themselves to be culturally deaf and who are therefore reading written language as a second language. She includes a set of design guidelines: Deafness and the user experience
- A toolkit for designers and design managers to help them consider and implement inclusive design, i.e. design that is usable by a wider range of people, particularly those with capability loss. As well as information on the business case and the design process, there is detailed information on a range of capabilities and how they impact on design: Inclusive design kit Also includes simulators for a variety of visual impairments.
- Scope in Australia, a charity for people with a disability, publishes guidelines for Easy English: Easy English writing style guide
- Global English is a method of writing clear and simple text. (Global English also helps both human translators and machine translation systems.) Review of “The Global English style guide” from Techscribe
- These authors provided guidelines on how to write for translation – and then tested and revised them in 2006: Writing for translation: don’t miss the opportunity
- Heuristics for designing for older people, based on extensive research by Ginny Redish and Dana Chisnell: AARP audience-centred heuristics
- Practical tips for doing usability testing with older people, relevant to testing with anyone, by Dana Chisnell: Involving older adults in design of the user experience: Inclusive design
- Jamie Knight describes his experience with reading and the tools he uses to help
- Leisa Reichelt writes about how an encounter in a Chicago café led her to thinking about designing for illiteracy
- Rachel McAlpine writes about temporary difficulties in reading
- Chadwick-Dias, A., McNulty, M., and Tullis, T., 2003, Web Usability and Age: How Design Changes Can Improve Performance, Proceedings of CUU ’03, available at: ACM Digital Library (payment or subscription required). In this study, a team at Fidelity Investments measured the performance of younger and older users on typical tasks on their website. The older users had a harder time. Then the team created a prototype that aimed to avoid the barriers that older users encountered. As expected, older users found the prototype easier to use. The unexpected finding was that the performance of younger users also improved.
- Chadwick-Dias, A., Tedesco, D., and Tullis, T., 2004, Older Adults and Web Usability: Is Web Experience the Same as Web Expertise? Proceedings of CHI 2004, available at: ACM Digital Library (payment or subscription required). “Even when level of PC/web experience is controlled, older adults experience more usability issues on the web than younger adults. When specific design modifications were made to accommodate the unique needs of older adults, the modifications improved usability for all users, with equal effect. But we still did not “close the usability gap” between younger and older users.” The Fidelity team studied the way that older adults use the web. They found that even when web experience is controlled, older adults still demonstrated less web expertise than younger adults. Their research supported the hypothesis that web expertise is significantly influenced by how users learned the web – or their cumulative time spent in collaborative learning environments (learning from and with others?) rather than just how long or how often they have used it.
- Chisnell, D. and Redish, J. C., 2005, Who Is the “Older Adult” in Your Audience? (.pdf) Intercom, January 2005 pp 10-14. Explains that “older adults” are not one homogenous group, but should instead be thought of according to four attributes: age, ability, aptitude and attitude
- Chisnell D., Redish, J. C., and Lee, A., 2006, New Heuristics for Understanding Older Adults as Web Users, Technical Communication, 53(1). This article reports on a study performed for AARP on the needs of older web users. It defines a model of older users that includes four dimensions (age, ability, aptitude, and attitude). It defines 20 heuristics, as well as personas and tasks for reviewing websites, and a methodology for doing persona-based, task-based heuristic review that would allow us to evaluate many sites in a relatively short time in a highly realistic way. Finally, it reports the results of an analysis of 50 websites for general audiences that include older adults, using that methodology.
- Quesenbery, W., March 2006, More Alike Than We Think UXmatters. Reports on a study for the Open University that looked at designing for older adults, people with low literacy and teenagers. “Instead of forcing visitors to select the right version for their needs, we offered information that was useful and usable to all visitors. Rather than creating a design that satisfied a lowest common denominator and a mediocre user experience for all, our universal design helped everyone take the first step in learning about the OU and deciding what to explore next”.
- Rudick, M. and O’Flahavan, L., 2004-2010, The Bite, The Snack, And The Meal: How To Feed Content-Hungry Site Visitors. “Writing good web content is a lot like planning a big dinner party.You’re looking forward to having lots of guests, but you’re not sure about when they’ll arrive or how hungry they’ll be. You know Deborah will only nibble on the salad, Laura will snack on the chicken, and Dan will cheerfully devour everything you serve. As an experienced party planner, you’ll accommodate your guests’ diverse appetites. A good web writer does the same thing–accommodates the appetites of all content-hungry visitors by providing different amounts of content for different users.”
- Summers, K. and Summers, M., 2005, Reading and Navigational Strategies of Web Users with Lower Literacy Skills (.pdf), ASSIST 2005. About half of the adults in the US read at the 8th grade level or below. Yet most websites are written at the 10th grade level or higher. The goal of this two-year study, sponsored by Pfizer, was twofold: 1) to understand the differences between the reading and navigational strategies of users with medium to high literacy skills and those with lower literacy skills; 2) to learn how to make web-based medical content usable and accessible for lower-literacy adults, and to develop design principles that could be used to design websites that would meet the needs of both higher and lower literacy users.
- Tullis, T. and Chadwick-Dias, A., 2003, Fidelity Investments’ Eight Lessons Learned , AARP ‘Older, Wiser, Wired’. “Even when level of PC/web experience is controlled, older adults experience more usability issues on the web than younger adults. When specific design modifications were made to accommodate the unique needs of older adults, the modifications improved usability for all users, with equal effect. But we still did not “close the usability gap” between younger and older users”.
featured image: read by carnagenyc, creative commons licence