Designing for Dyslexia

Photo by PEXELS

I attended a talk by several designers from Sabre with UXPA who shared how they are taking steps to encourage others to design for dyslexia not only on the web, but everywhere.

“Dyslexia is a specific learning disability that is neurobiological in origin. It is characterized by difficulties with accurate and/or fluent word recognition and by poor spelling and decoding abilities. Secondary consequences may include problems in reading comprehension and reduced reading experience that can impede growth of vocabulary and background knowledge.” -International Dyslexia Assoc.

Empathy for all.

Seda Maurer started the discussion by addressing empathy. Important to every designer, empathy is what drives us to making better products. We use empathy to understand how products can solve problems and design accordingly. Designers must understand that their audience will be made up of people with different abilities (5–20% of the total population of the US have varying forms of dyslexia).

Maurer discussed that although technology has brought freedom and ease into everything we do today, there is a flip side that isn’t often addressed. Designing with only a non-dyslexic person in mind, we may be limiting the users that can enjoy our product.

“The web [should be] accessible by default, [we just] break it.”-Seda Maurer

Ten tips you can use now.

Maurer was joined by Jennifer Keene-Moore and Anita Cator who provided these tips to design for everyone:

  1. Allow for customization of visual preferences (colors, fonts, and text magnification).
  2. Use large san serif fonts with plenty of leading (consider checking out fonts like Open Dyslexic).
  3. Don’t center your text, always left justify.
  4. Content should be clear and concise. Use headers, short sentences, and bulleted/numbered lists.
  5. Use dark grey for your text. True black on a white background can create a blurred effect.
  6. Preferred line length is 45 characters. Maximum line length should not exceed 100 characters.
  7. Use visual and auditory alerts.
  8. Add captions on video content for the hard of hearing.
  9. Reinforce text with icons.
  10. Use bold text rather than italics or underlines for emphasis.

The web is a powerful and flexible tool that should be easily accessible by everyone, no matter a persons ability. If we lower cognitive load we will enhance everyones experience on the web.

View their presentations here:

Designing for Empathy discusses how designers should use empathy to understand how products can solve problems and design accordingly.

Designing for Dyslexia is a deeper dive into the tips I mentioned above!


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