Low-Literacy Users (Jakob Nielsen’s Alertbox)

In many ways, this article is pointing out the obvious – at least, to anyone who is used to working with anyone with low literacy skills.
Whereas earlier research suggested that most readers skim a web page, the research was carried out with highly literate testers.

For low literate users, then

they plow text rather than scan it, and they miss page elements due to a narrower field of view.

They don’t scan – they read all words – and often have to spend time working out what the word is. This can lead to a lot of information being missed.
There are other aspects that are more difficult for low literacy users:
Scrolling – Once the bottom of the page has been reached, focus has to be switched to the scroll bar, then back again, to find text that’s no longer at the bottom, but somewhere in the page.
Searching: Not only does the search term need spelling correctly, but the results list typically has the word in a short phrase, which mayn’t be sufficient to work out the full context.

Neilsen suggests that 30% of web users may have literacy problems (the total – US figures is 48% – but not all have internet access)

Neilsen then goes on to look at sites that have been adapted to suit the needs of low literacy users, and, like many other adjustments for accessibility, have found that all users find the new design more logical/ easy to use etc.,

Well worth a read.

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