Making the News Accessible for All

Ziggy was recently tasked with redesigning the 8sidor.se website. 8sidor is a newspaper written in easy to read Swedish, published by Centrum för Lättläst for the last 30 years. 8sidor’s website offers similar content to the subscription publication, while offering digital tools such as language translation and the ability to listen to the news.

The current website needed to be updated and simplified, allowing for ease of use for all of its visitors, including those with physical or developmental disabilities, immigrants, elementary school students, and other people who have difficulties reading traditional newspapers.

The website is still under development, but several key points emerged early on in the design process.

Keep design patterns consistent

One issue with designing a website for such a varied group of users (some of whom may have developmental disabilities) is to keep the layout predictable and easy to understand.

  • The side column is always present on left side of page, and only shows news stories (as opposed to promotional content or internal links)
  • The right column was eliminated to keep distractions to a minimum for users who have a hard time concentrating while reading
  • News category color-coding was carried over from print edition, and is consistent throughout the site

Delete, Delete, Delete

The existing website, while functional, has a lot of material which would benefit from better organization. In addition, helpful tools such as translation assistance or being able to listen to the news, are placed in the header of the site, as opposed to being closer to the content where they can be used. In our design, we have:

  • Removed visual clutter
  • Removed or relocated unnecessary functions and navigation
  • Group similar information together
  • Moved relevant tools close to the content

The footer was redesigned to contain a denser amount of website-specific content (as opposed to distracting from the news stories themselves):

Content is King

In order to focus the user’s attention on the news stories, we have redesigned the header of the site to be simpler and less distracting, while still maintaining a familiar look and feel.

The overall design is still in development, but we are exited to move forward with user testing and the eventual launch of the new site.

Forget the fold! Here´s 4 things to focus on instead

THEFOLD

THE FOLD GRAPHIC

The Fold. In web design it’s the point of reference on a webpage that defines what content the viewer can see without having to scroll. It’s a design principle that’s becoming increasingly irrelevant yet clients are often concerned that their audience will only focus on the visible content. And while keeping content “above the fold” does have some validity, attempting to put everything above it can make finely tuned web pages cramped, unclear and difficult for users to grasp. So when this topic starts to become the focus of creative direction, I take the opportunity to point out how today’s technology has changed user behavior and influenced design strategy.

Users scroll

The fold rule had validity before the proliferation of mobile devices. But, with increasing monitor resolutions, frequent smartphone releases and mobile Internet traffic at all-time highs, users have become accustomed to scrolling. Research studies have proved that today’s users scroll and the fold standard isn’t as important as the content you’re presenting. Analytics service, Chartbeat showed that 66 percent of a users focus was spent below the fold on the pages they tested. Another analytics provider, Kissmetrics, found that placing call-to-action buttons below or above the fold had no significant impact on conversion for the pages they tested. There’s even a study that shows “less content above the fold may encourage more exploration below the fold.” So, if designing for a fixed dimension across such a disparate number of screen resolutions is no longer the best approach, what do you do? Focus on good usability and content.

What you should worry about instead

A good introduction. The information at the top of your page should entice the viewer to continue reading further down the page. Pique their curiosity rather than throwing every bit of content at them as quickly as possible.

Your hierarchy. Always prioritize your content and know what you want to communicate first. The most important thought should sit highest on the page but keep in mind that people tend to scan rather than read. Remember, if everything is important then nothing is important.

Usability. Providing clear visual cues, language and navigation is always necessary if you intend to lead customers around your content. Make sure content blocks are easy to digest since dense areas of copy can seem taxing and cause the viewer to lose interest.

Blindly following the rules. There are plenty of design principles out there but every site has it’s own goals and audience. Understanding your visitor’s needs and mindset can often provide better guidance than a general rule of thumb.

The do’s and don’ts of creating intergenerational games

Today we welcome a new writer to the blog: Matylda McIlvenny, art director at Ziggy.

I want my pre-schooler to play video games. Actually, I want to play them too. Which is why a recent Slate article by Annie Murphy Paul piqued my interest. In it, she describes the challenges faced by Mindy Books, the director of education and research at Sesame Workshop, in developing an intergenerational game called Electric Racer. As a designer and parent, I found the research behind the testing of this (and other intergenerational games) compelling. How do you engage both adults and children in educational (and fun) gameplay?

So, here´s a few pieces of advice.

Don’t assume players will figure out how to play

Present a video tutorial or walkthrough before the game begins. Be aware that according to usability expert Jacob Nielsen:

“Many kids behave more like adult users and refuse to read. This reduced willingness to read seems related to experience: the more experience our users had, the less they read.

Keep game interactions and feedback consistent

Adults and children alike adapt to gameplay faster when design patterns are predictable.

Do encourage dialogue

Facilitate “scaffolded” learning through on-screen prompts for adults. Based on Mindy Brooks’ research, adults aid children in learning by “asking questions, providing guidance, helping the child make new connections or draw on past experiences”.

Allow for customization of on-screen features and collaboration on avatar design, keeping in mind that each age group has different expectations of avatar appearance and behavior.

Moreover, joint problem-solving early in the game also encourages collaboration and more successful gameplay.

Do play up each player’s strengths

In intergenerational gameplay, adults provide guidance and encourage patience and self-control. An adult can assist the child in maintaining focus and concentration during specific tasks.

Children can play the role of experts in the use of technology. In addition, because older users such as grandparents may have trouble with techy terms, children can be prompted to assist older players.

Don’t assume one size fits all

Physical and mental limitations are important to consider: allow for longer reaction times for older users, while encouraging faster reaction times for younger users. Through his usability studies, Jacob Nielsen also found the need to distinguish between young (3–5), mid-range (6–8), and older (9–12) children. “Each group has different behaviors and preferences.”