In her Efficient & Effective Design, Conserving Cognitive Energy presentation at the AccessU 2020 virtual conference on accessibility, Glenda Sims discussed how designing digital experiences for people with cognitive disabilities offers benefits for everyone.
Sims highlighted the principles designers can use to focus on the functional impacts of cognitive disabilities. In addition, she offered helpful tips and advice for improving the user experience for all.
Here are my notes from her presentation.
Efficient & Effective Design, Conserving Cognitive Energy
- For most people, technology makes things easier. For people with disabilities, technology makes things possible.
- Instead of focusing on medical disability terms, what if we instead focus on the cognitive skills used?
- Processing speed
- Time management
- Letters and language
- Numbers, symbols, and math
- Making choices
- What can designers do to focus and maintain attention? Help users find what they need. Don’t force users to dig. Make sure important info stands out. Only present info needed at the moment.
- Limit interruptions and distractions (popups, movements, and reminders)
- Avoid setting time limits. If you must have a time limit, provide options to disable, adjust, or extend time limits. Also, provide advance warning to users about time limits.
- Help users know where they are on your website, provide path markers (“You are here” in the process). Offer option to go back to where they were.
- Make it easy for people to understand your content
- Use short, simple words
- Write short sentences
- Avoid acronyms and abbreviations
- Use active voice in present tense
- Use correct grammar and spelling
- Remove proper nouns
- Free online tool to help you improve your writing: Hemingway app
- There are many different motivations for addressing cognitive disability. Could be personal, family & friends, make the world a better place, or driven by profit.
- Help people see return on investment for creating designs that address cognitive disability
- Do you really want to make it harder for someone to finish a task on your website? At 60+ years old, that person may be in the group with the most money to spend in the United States.
- Don’t waste anyone’s brain power. Good design is cognitively efficient design