UPA Boston 2012: Designing for People Who Struggle with Reading and Attention (Julie Strothman)
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”