Many people are surprised to learn that the average reading age of adults in the UK is nine - that means the average person reading your website has the reading ability normally expected of a nine year old. And most people don't realise that at least one in ten visitors to a website will be dyslexic or that many more than that will have cognitive difficulties or a learning disability.
Many websites let themselves down and lose visitors because they don't understand how to make sure their content is easily understood and clear to navigate. And whatever their reading age everyone will benefit if you provide information clearly and simply. So here's our quick guide to producing accessible content.
1 Avoid jargon and abbreviations
Know your expected audience, and write copy accordingly. Using financial jargon may be fine for visitors with a financial background, but other users may miss out. Good practise is to avoid jargon, or if it is necessary, provide a glossary. Similarly for acronyms and abbreviations: expand these when they are first used in any content so users are clear about their meaning.
2 Key information comes first
Start sentences, paragraphs and headings with key information. Users will typically read the first sentence or two of a paragraph to see if the information is relevant, before moving on if it is not.
3 Understand what information visitors need
Place yourself in the shoes of a site visitor - what are the essential bits of information they will be looking for? If you are not sure, you should ask them.
4 Fewer words, greater impact
Don’t use 10 words when five will do. Users visit your site to get information, not read unnecessary content.
5 Structure your content
Make use of headings, paragraphs and bulleted lists to break text up into meaningful sections. Make one key point per paragraph. Make sure headings are labelled as such in your Content Management System (CMS) to help screenreaders differentiate content.
6 Consider audio, video or illustration instead of words
Some users will prefer to read content, others will benefit from a video, still others prefer a simplified, or illustrated guide. This obviously depends on what information you are conveying, but keep in mind the different options available.