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Web design with dyslexia in mind

One of the joys of being self-employed is that you, largely, direct the pace of your days.

Monday mornings for me tend to revolve around an awful lot of tea drinking, responding to any emails and new client enquiries that came in over the weekend, and making sure all my t's are crossed and i's are dotted from the previous week. It's a positive time, and that's not something I knew could ever be said for Mondays!

Today I had some time to follow my nose around the Internet, and I ended up exploring some of the documents provided by the fantastic organisation, British Dyslexia Association.

I wasn't diagnosed with Dyslexia until I was at University, so I'd gone many years without putting my finger on the problem. For me it was a huge relief to finally understand what was standing in my way of reading easily, and the tactics I learnt to get around it have been priceless.

I find I have the most trouble reading books when you can see the other page's words through your own page (so many academic books use thin paper and gothic serif fonts- whyyyy we cry!) and I also struggle to read from black and very dark backgrounds, for example the signage used at British railway stations- with their bubbling orange letters glowing on black screens.

I've found my ways around it and largely my dyslexia doesn't limit my life too much- and for this I am incredibly lucky.

Whilst around 10% of the UK population has been diagnosed with dyslexia, around 4% have what is categorised as 'severe dyslexia (BDA, 2017).

Just take a moment to imagine the words you have already consumed today. Morning texts, the side of your Weetabix box, a letter from the council, washing instructions on the label of your new jumper, a poster for a lost dog, road signs. That list goes on and on and on every single day. Now take a moment to imagine the frustration you'd be feeling if those words were jumping around in front of your eyes. An involuntary, uncontrollable fluidity to basic but essential information. Annoying, huh?

With this frustration in mind, wouldn't you be grateful if the world took a moment to try and make it a marginally friendlier place for you?

Did you know that dyslexic readers access text at up to 25% slower on a computer?

The British Dyslexia Association have produced a fantastic Style Guide, which I strongly feel every professional in a publishing, designing or educational role should have a copy of. It advises on best practice ideas for printed and online materials, and shows us all how a tiny tweak can make a huge difference.

Here are some key thoughts when it comes to Website Designing with dyslexia in mind:

- Navigation should be simple, and include a site map where possible.

- Use graphics, pictures and images to break up big bodies of text.

= But! Very large graphics can break up the flow, and actually make it harder to read.

- Think about making the web pages available to download to read off line, or available in a reader-friendly format.

- Moving text is problematic and cannot be read by text-reading software- remember this when you’re adding your transitions and animations.

- Most users will prefer dark text on a pale background, but of course, colour preferences vary with the individual. Consider offering a change of background colour.

- Avoid green, red and pink, as these are commonly difficult colours for readers with colour-blindness.

- Use plain, evenly spaced sans font (for example this, not this)

- Avoid underlining and italics as these can make the words run together for readers. Go bold instead!

- AVOID TEXT IN BLOCK CAPITALS, as that's much harder to read.

- Avoid starting a sentence at the end of a line.

- Use short, simple sentences in a direct style, and give instructions clearly.

- Avoid double negatives (which are bad practice at the best of times!)

(BDA, 2017)

There are several pages of tips on the BDA Style Guide, but these are the key pointers to bear in mind specifically for designing websites. If we all take a little time to action these in our designs, we'll be doing our bit to make the Internet a friendlier place for readers of all abilities.

Go forth and format! #dyslexiafriendlydesign

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