As we've been talking about over the past four months (and before this), there's an incredible push to make the web more accessible. There are guidelines for all sorts of disabilities. People with visual or hearing impairments have arguably been at the forefront of web design's attention. At least, these needs were met first.
Dyslexia directly impacts how often a person will use the internet. It also affects the mediums and channels a person prefers. Looking at a hard copy or a book is difficult because it can't be altered. What can be controlled, though, is how a webpage looks and functions.
Having dyslexia isn't simply about looking at the letter b and seeing a d, for example. Dyslexia has its own spectrum. Some people find phonetics a challenge, others find reading and comprehending text to be difficult, going over and over the same line.
According to gov.uk, 6.3 million people (which is about 10% of the UK population) have dyslexia. One in every six adults has a reading age of 11.
Design best practice
When designing a webpage with the needs of a dyslexic person in mind, you'll find that your design becomes clean and very clear with proper line and text spacing.
Paying attention to text spacing (which is commonly bundled together with other practices like font size, case, weight, colour, line height, line length and kerning) makes the available space around a letter much easier to process.
It's possible to cater for Dyslexia right there in the code, too. Avoiding heavy contrast like black on white, for a start.
Structurally speaking, sticking to readability guidelines is smart. The wider a block of text spans from one edge of a screen to another, it gets more difficult to follow.
Using columns of 80 characters (or less) per line is advisable. Make sure whitespace is consistent. Avoid double spacing as this can negatively impact the flow, causing the dyslexic person to stumble when reading.
Using fonts like Arial (or, as much as people joke about it, Comic Sans) is good because they're highly readable. The letters aren't packed tightly together. You could use Calibri, Verdana and Tahoma, too. Having these in size 12–14 is great. Some may need it even bigger than this.
Giving your user the control to dive into the settings and amend both the type of text or size is another, empowering, solution. Writing a summary or tagline will save them from the TL;DR effect. The user won't have to wade through a large body of text to find it isn't what they wanted and end up frustrated.
A good, accessible website will translate information for dyslexics. There will be a unique landing page offering a call to action, a headline that accurately explains the content and media instead of chunks of text. A good SEO content writer will recognise this as a successful way to get Google to recognise and rank a page highly (providing the content is good quality, but that's a totally different topic).
Always offer an obvious way back to the homepage. This is a simple way to avoid confusion and frustration. This is useful to everyone (and we've been saying that accessibility benefits everyone), but in particular, dyslexics who can struggle to process a hierarchy of information.
Don't forget the aids that make a web browsing experience more efficient. Screen readers and plug-ins that transform a body of text into something comfortably readable. Users can adjust the font to their liking and mask areas of the screen where needed. Text-to-audio could solve a lot of issues easily too.
Key things to remember
There isn't a definitive list of symptoms. You'll find dyslexia affecting people in a number of ways. Some find writing a challenge whereas others find maths problems hard. There are issues with oscillation and even attention span.
It's not all bad! Dyslexics are known to be proud of their unique mindset and way of approaching problems.
There is no one-size-fits-all solution. When asked, some users will tell you their web design preferences lean toward clear typography, whereas others want more confidence in a checkout process when buying something online.
When web designers cater to dyslexia, one must remember the above key points. Considering best practices like those we've covered above will always be the best approach. Generally, avoiding elements that cause any visual distortion or those that take away from the white space.
We're working hard to make the web more accessible to everyone. If you'd like to talk about how to make your website more accessible to all, we'd love to do an audit. Contact us!