The Good, Bad and Ugly Practices That Affect Dyslexic Users

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According to web design professionals at UX Movement, there are 6 Surprising Bad Practices That Hurt Dyslexic Users (and others for that matter).

Below is a snippet of these bad practices that we might not be aware of and are using everyday in our communication channels. 

As we strive to serve the best interests of our students and community, challenge yourself to avoid these bad practices. Read more >

1. Justified text

Justified text is not only difficult to read for dyslexic users, but for non-dyslexic users as well. This is because it creates large uneven spaces between letters and words [8]. When these spaces line up above one another, a distracting river of whitespace can appear [4].

This can cause dyslexic readers to repeatedly lose their place when reading [6]. You can avoid creating the river effect by using left-aligned text, instead of justified text for your paragraphs [2].

2. Double spacing after periods

Most of us have a habit of double spacing after periods at the end of a sentence. This practice originates from the typewriting days of the past. Typewriters used monospaced fonts back then. Because of this, people thought that double spacing after periods would make the end of sentences more distinct [9].

But single spacing after periods is enough because most websites use proportionally spaced fonts. Double spacing after a period can create “rivers” within text that make it difficult for users to find the end of sentences [9]. On the web, single spacing wins.

3. Pure black text on a pure white background

There’s a reason the text you’re reading now is not pure black (#000000), and the background is not pure white (#FFFFFF). It’s because many dyslexic users are sensitive to the brightness the high contrast colors cause. This can cause the words to swirl or blur together [3].

To avoid this, use an off-white color for your background, like light gray or tan. You can also use a dark gray for your text instead of pure black to cut the glare even more.

4. Long blocks of unbroken paragraphs

Long blocks of unbroken paragraph text are not only hard for dyslexic users to read, but for non-dyslexic users too. It’s easy for dyslexic readers to lose their place with long paragraphs [1].

That’s why it’s better to use short paragraphs that express one idea [2].  This is because dyslexic users need more breaks between ideas than non-dyslexic users [6]. Breaking up your text to one idea per paragraph makes reading a lot easier for both dyslexic and non-dyslexic users.

5. Serif fonts

Serif fonts have hooks at the ends of the letter strokes. They may look decorative, but they can cause reading problems for dyslexic users. Serifs tend to obscure the shapes of letters, making the letters run together [1].

But a sans-serif font would allow dyslexic users to see the shapes of letters clearer. This is because a lack of hooks increases the spacing between letters and makes them more distinguishable [6].

6. Italicized text

Italics are sometimes used to highlight text. But you shouldn’t use italicized text because they make letters hard to read. The letters have a jagged line compared to non-italic fonts. The letters also lean over making it hard for dyslexic users to make out the words [6].

When the text size is small, italicized text is even more illegible [3]. A better way to highlight is to use bold text because the letters are clearer and give better contrast.

Accessibility for All

Many users suffer from dyslexia and have trouble reading text. You should make your website accessible to everyone by fixing these bad practices. You got a glimpse of how dyslexic users experience the web. It’s not easy to get information when you read with visual distortion. Everyone has the right to information, whether they’re dyslexic or not.

About Brent Fullerton

International educator and entrepreneur striving to enhance lives.
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