Design to read: designing for people who do not read easily

A reader using her finger to navigate a page of dense text
Photo by Thought Catalog on Unsplash

Many people do not read easily. This might be because of:

  • an impairment or disability,
  • poor access to literacy
  • because English is not their first language
  • stressful or distracting circumstances
  • an unfamiliar topic.

That’s a lot of varied reasons.

Perhaps surprisingly, the things we need to do as designers to help are much less varied. Even expert readers prefer to read familiar words, short sentences, and text that is to the point. For an expert reader, easier text is simply quicker. For someone who has difficulty with reading, easier text may be the difference between successful reading or giving up and failing at their task.

More alike than we think

Whitney Quesenbery and I became convinced that we could design websites for different audiences when we researched the topic for the Open University: article: More Alike Than We Think (March, 2006)

This work led on to a project “Design to Read”. A group of us met, discovered that we had a lot in common, and some of us went on to write more about it. Some of the links that follow are to historic posts and articles.

Guidelines for designing for people who don’t read easily

“Design to read” means “design for everyone”

Designing for people with learning disabilities

Usability testing with people who have disabilities

Using plain language

Practical examples

Readability formulas

Additional resources and personal stories