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Designing with dyslexia in mind

Here in the UK it's estimated that up to 1 in 10 people have some form of dyslexia. And so, without taking this into consideration, could we be limiting the types of people that we design for?


Defining Dyslexia

Summarized by Nessy, an award-winning educational platform:


“Visual dyslexia is a reduced ability to make sense of information taken in through the eyes. It is specific to letters and words and the same person may have an excellent memory for pictures”

In which case, adding colour, illustration and infographics to your designs could have more of a significant impact to your users overall engagement and understanding of your product, than you may have first thought. Being dyslexic myself, I have also had a few interesting experiences over the years... Particularly whilst travelling in Asia, where I found myself struggling to write down highly detailed timetables. And as a result of this, on one occasion got the timing out of a long haul train journey by 12 hours. Needless to say it was an interesting trip(!)


I have found that largely on the whole, many are choosing not to view dyslexia as a hindrance. Noted by the writer, Malcolm Gladwell who uses dyslexia as an example of a 'desirable difficulty'. And encourages people to view dyslexia positively, in their unique approach to creative problem solving as a result.


With this in mind and not to mention, this year's ever increasing need for remote learning online, I've noted down some key points to consider during the design process.


1. Choose your colour palette wisely Research has widely suggested that pastel backgrounds can make it easier for dyslexics to digest information, reduce cognitive overload and overall visual stress. Avoid choosing high contrasting colours in your design. And particularly in the use of red and green which can also be a common visual problem for those who are colour blind.

2. Keep it minimal As a general rule of thumb, ensure that your white space and text layout is kept consistent. Avoid long passages of text, if possible and choose to highlight key words in bold rather than underline them.

3. Offer your users an element of control

Allow them to easily adjust text size, line height and even choose a text-to-audio option through adding simple readability tools onto your website or app. Don't worry, this need not impose on your site's overall design. As a suggestion, you could add a simple cog icon near a header of a page, to bring up a list of options for the reader.


4. Consider using infographics

Infographics are a great way of transforming complex ideas and information, into easy to digest visual formats. Since dyslexia is a difficulty in processing language-based information, the potential of imagery to help users learn and engage in content, is an exciting and growing field. This ability to use imagery with minimum text to convey ideas and information, is wonderfully demonstrated in Kate Power and Kathy Iwanczak Forsyth's book 'The Illustrated Guide to Dyslexia and its Amazing People.' It cleverly uses punchy graphics to illustrate the topic of dyslexia and how it can affect people's lives.


Conclusion

It could be argued, with so much noise out there, that designing with dyslexia in mind, could in turn produce a more streamlined and considered design, that is easier on the eye, for all users. In turn, a win win scenario(!) What are your thoughts on this?

© Gill Chantler 2020 ~ All rights reserved

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