Academics Interests

Small Things

Changing something as simple as the font face could help a audience segment that is often completely missed, those with dyslexia.

When Steve Krug talks about usability in Don’t Make Me Think he states

there’s another important component to usability: doing the right thing – being considerate of the user.

Don’t Make Me Think, Revisited p. 166

While he’s not specifically addressing font choices, it made me think about the small decisions that are made while designing for the web. Consider someone with Dyslexia, how difficult is your site to read and navigate? Folks with Dyslexia are a relatively small percentage of the populace. According to the number is 15% cited from a U.S. Department of Health and Human Services estimate. I don’t know why an .au (Australia) is citing the U.S. Department of Health Statistic, but maybe it is the easiest documentation to find? But that’s another story, for another time.

What really got me on this topic is a student in my class. This particular student confided that they have Dyslexia, so following along with code can be difficult and having video captures help because they can go back, review and take longer to absorb the material. I remembered reading several years ago about fonts specifically designed for Dyslexics (is that a word?) and decided to look into it again. After all, if I could purchase a font that would make the slides easier to read for someone with Dyslexia and NOT diminish the readability for everyone else, why not do so.

While doing some reading, I found the following :

The main conclusion is that font types have an impact on readability of people with dyslexia. Good fonts for people with dyslexia are Helvetica, Courier, Arial, Verdana and CMU, taking into consideration both, reading performance and subjective preferences. Also, sans serif, monospaced, and roman font types increased significantly the reading performance, while italic fonts decreased reading performance. In particular, Arial It. should be avoided since it significantly decreases readability

Which made me thing? What font am I using? “Noto Serif” in the editor, but “Droid Sans” when viewing. I’ll be changing that to follow the recommendations above.

Key takeaway? When you can make a simple change that helps your audience, even if it’s small part of your audience, without causing additional problems, you should absolutely do it. If for no other reason, because it’s simply the right thing to do.

By Mark

I work in IT and ride Motorcycles. I do one to support the other.