25 January 2018

Vulnerable consumers: why you need to change your website

Thomas Ridley Siegert

By Thomas Ridley Siegert LinkedIn

Your website and documents are currently big barriers for at least one in 10 of your customers.

When I was going into my third year of university I was diagnosed with dyslexia. This seemed weird to me as surely the teachers throughout my education should have picked this up when I was younger.

But the problem was that I’ve never had a problem with spelling, grammar or reading. It transpires that dyslexia is so broad that issues with spelling is only one, albeit most well-known, symptom.

So what is dyslexia?

As I mentioned, there isn’t really one type of dyslexia. The most commonly thought-of example would be of someone who has issues with spelling and grammar. But this isn’t necessarily true. People with dyslexia can be exceptionally good readers, spellers, etc. Dyslexia can manifest itself in a difficultly with spoken words or a short-term memory issue.

It’s a complicated spectrum.

This is why it should matter to you and your business

Around one in 10 people are estimated to have dyslexia. This means that a substantial amount of your audience is likely to be affected.

In Information Architecture – which is the study of how best to present information on websites, documents, etc. - there’s a principle called ‘Universal Design’. This simply means designing a website that works for the largest possible audience. For example, if your website is clear enough for an 80 year old, it’ll likely be usable for an 18 year old. To apply this to dyslexia, if your website is optimised for people with dyslexia then it’ll work for those without dyslexia.

Making these changes won’t patronise people without dyslexia. It merely works to include more of your audience.

How to adapt your website

Black and white text is one feature which limits understanding for people with dyslexia. Simply having coloured headers can make a large difference. The same applies to well-spaced text.

The structure of text – whether this be on a website, in Ts & Cs, or elsewhere - is extremely important. If the reading flow of a text is broken, people with dyslexia can find it harder to regain that flow. This can be helped by explaining and showing the structure of the text. This could mean a coloured or underlined contents bar or navigation tool to clearly show which section they are currently in and what is coming up.

Along this same line, having to refer back to definitions is detrimental to the reading flow. New terms should be introduced slowly and where relevant.

One important and last point is to present the exact information your customers need without any distractions. Dyslexia and Attentional Deficit and Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) have a high comorbidity rate meaning they are more likely to occur together. Presenting the key information clearly without unnecessary images, links, etc. can allow the consumer to focus and decide if the product is the correct one for them.

Small change = happier customers 

These changes aren’t resource-heavy or intensive. They are simple, proactive changes that will benefit every one of your customers. It isn’t about catering to the minority; it’s about optimising your communications to include more people in the conversation.

As part of our transparency ratings, we now include an analysis of a website’s accessibility – as well as scrutinising its use of language and design more generally. Far too many financial services sites still fall short of the standard which we believe should be, well… standard.