Content Design London

Readability Guidelines Beta update: 4

Published 2 January 2019, by Lizzie Bruce in Content Process Research Usability.

18 December has been and gone… sadly, the Beta phase of the Readability Guidelines project is over. But we’re keeping all the Slack topic discussion channels open. So, you’re still able to add thoughts and usability evidence there at any time, as well as to the public Readability Guidelines wiki.

The wiki will be updated to reflect all the learnings and evidence from the 15 topics we discussed during Beta, to make sure everything has been captured. We’ll also be giving all the guidance pages a consistent layout.

Final topics

Before going into more detail about next steps for the wiki, and for the project, let’s take a quick look at the final topics we covered during Beta.

Since the last update we looked at writing about people respectfully and inclusively and also audience labels, particularly “we” for the organisation whose website it is and “you” for the user.

Writing about people

This was a broad topic and it seemed rather to open more discussion points than particularly resolve any. We did come to some conclusions:

  • user testing is particularly important here
  • assumptions and incorrect mental models are dangerous
  • avoid asking for gender or age
  • avoid defining people by their situation or experience
  • choose respectful vocabulary
  • improve your knowledge and understanding of potentially emotive language choices

The discussion also got us thinking about different learning styles different people have, implications for users who experience ADHD and how this could be relevant for inclusively designed content.

Audience labels

Again, this was a huge topic. We did draw some helpful guidelines from the evidence we looked at plus blog articles and our own professional experiences:

  • complex situations like references to 3rd parties can make “we” and “you” confusing
  • labels might be understood differently from what was intended
  • users’ understanding of text open to multiple possible interpretations may be decided on an emotional level
  • plain English and simple sentence structure can help
  • being explicit rather than using “we” “you” can improve comprehension
  • use “they” as a general pronoun, not “he” or “she”
  • user testing is, again, crucial

Next steps

Content Design London are hoping to carry out some usability testing. We’ve spoken to an ex-GDS Head of User Research already. We need your help. Which topics would fresh usability evidence make the most impact for?

We may also apply to relevant digital project grants, especially those supporting inclusive design. Let us know if you know of any.

We’ll be keeping all the Slack channels open and even after Beta outcomes are up on the wiki anyone can comment there or on Slack. No topics are “closed” and the wiki itself is iterative by design.

To do list

There’s a lot of tidying up to do post-Beta to make the public wiki reflective of all our input and conversations. Here are some of the main things we’ll be doing.

  1. Add Beta learnings and apply consistency to the wiki.
  2. Check which Beta usability evidence questions we’ve answered.
  3. Flag evidence which is good but dated.
  4. Link up with Scope, Digital Accessibility Centre and WebAIM content style discussions.
  5. Decide which outstanding usability questions carry most impact.
  6. Plan user testing.

A collaborative, global effort

We wanted to get as many content, usability and other digital professionals as possible involved. 410 cross-sector professionals in 17 time zones have joined the Slack workspace.

Readability Guidelines collaborators are based in Wellington, New Zealand, Bali, Indonesia, Ontario, Canada, Minnesota, San Jose and Portland, USA, Barcelona, Spain, Dublin, Ireland, Orkney, Scotland, London, England… and more.

We’ve referenced evidence and style guidance from, and spoken with, the UK Government Digital Service, the Royal National Institute of Blind People and Scope. We asked our usability evidence questions at the London Accessibility Meetup. We’re approaching the Digital Accessibility Centre.

Each week research and discussion of up to 3 topics was led by volunteer super-contributors. Special thanks to Karin Tang, Grace Hughes, Rachel Johnston, Megan Lane, Emily Scard and Dan Deamer.

We literally couldn’t have got to where we are without the expansive Readability Guidelines community. It was, and continues to be, a collaborative project.

Get involved

Over to you… Please:

  • explore the wiki pages (currently being updated)
  • discover the conversation on Slack – invite to join:
  • share relevant usability studies and academic research, on topic wiki discussion page or Slack channel
  • add usability studies you’re carrying out to the Slack content testing channel
  • become a super-contributor and get involved in “To do” list tasks
  • share this update
  • follow #ReadabilityGuidelines on Twitter and LinkedIn, comment with your thoughts around content usability and inclusive design

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