At the UPA Boston 2012 conference, Julie Strothman presented “Designing for People Who Struggle with Reading and Attention.” As is frequently the case when targetting users with literacy/attention needs, these changes will improve usability for all users.
- Started with a great example of how hard it is for some people to decode text and avoid distractions.
- Move beyond “don’t make me thing,” to “don’t make me work harder than I already have to”
- Eye tracking between fluent readers and those who struggle (e.g. dyslexic) show dramatic difference - far more, and longer, pauses on syllables; more regression to previous words/lines
- “getting 10 minutes more to take a test” doesn’t approach the amount of extra effort required
(Jon spaces out for a few minutes - sends an e-mail…)
SUPPORT ATTENTION RECOVERY
- let users recognize what they need to do, rather than recall it
- for example, show the password rules on login form
- BagCheck login lets you look up your name to see what third-party service you used for login (on social site, it’s okay to see lists of user names, and is very helpful)
- Stop using dismissible error messages, show the error messages in context. Otherwise, hard to remember all the errors when you go back to fix.
PROVIDE HINTS INLINE
- vocabulary tooltips, further explanation
GUESS WHEN POSSIBLE
- some struggling users don’t like to read, so they try to guess without reading
- following patterns is huge help
FAQs AS EARLY FALLBACK
- some users go straight to FAQ, since they expect questions to have been asked, or to find a phone number there easily
STOP CAPTCHA MADNESS
- things that make understanding hard for machines (visual distortion, background noise) make it especially hard for struggling users to decipher
- strugglers spend lots of extra times looking around the page for clues - don’t put in unnecessary stuff that would be distracting
SEARCH WITH AUTOSUGGEST
- help people spell
- help people narrow down search automatically
- use search logs to identify good choices for “best bets”
- show spelling alternatives for frequent spelling mistakes
USE PLAIN LANGUAGE
- use simple words, active voice, reduce use of prepositional phrases
- see plainlanguage.gov (not “accordingly”, rather “so”)
- active voice is much easier to parse than passive voice!
- prepositional phrase: “the tool that is most efficient”, simplified: “the most efficient tool”
- avoid ALL CAPS - when you’re decoding words, you get a lot of info from the ascenders and descenders”