Home > literacy, usability > Half of your users can’t read your website

Half of your users can’t read your website

I’ve been thinking lately about usability and the web.

Did you know that 50% of Americans read at an eighth-grade level? And that most websites are written at a tenth-grade level?

Can you imagine 50% of the users of your website having difficulty understanding it?

Dr. Kathryn Summers, University of Baltimore and co-author of Creating Websites That Work, presented compelling evidence that most websites are too difficult for half of  their visitors to read and use.

Dr. Summers presented compelling evidence about reading behaviors of lower literacy users. Truthfully, I was not sure how useful this information would be, and was thinking of attending a different seminar. This seminar was one of the most factual and compelling that I have seen.

Just think of half your audience being unfamiliar with your website and how to use it! These users need very simple instructions. They can be really confused by forms, especially forms that are rejected without clear instructions as to why. They find acronyms difficult to understand and even if they were defined once in the page, may not remember that first reference.

Dr. Summers shared her hands-on analysis of data from eye tracking sessions, research on the latest industry best practices, and experience of developing numerous web design prototypes at the 2007 Government Web Managers One-Day Workshop. That presentation is not online, but a 2005 presentation, Reading and Navigational Strategies of Web Users with Lower Literacy Skills, is well worth your time.

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Categories: literacy, usability
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