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We all know that different types of people use and read websites differently. Most of the time when you think of who the target audience is, the answers are in broad demographic categories: gender, age, people who have an interest in this particular topic, etc. Add to that category higher vs. lower literacy users.
There are many people who fall into the category of lower literacy when it comes to websites. Some researchers estimate that as much as 50% of the U.S. population can be defined as having a lower literacy, while 30% of total online users can be said to have the same.
What’s discussed below is definitely something worth considering and applying to your website, especially if you think that a significant proportion of your visitors fall into the lower literacy category.
The most important thing that I can emphasize up front is that when I use the term “lower literacy”, I’m not talking about people who are illiterate or unintelligent. Quite the opposite in fact. People who have a lower literacy are able to read – they just struggle with it to some degree depending on the particular medium in question. In this case, I’m talking about lower literacy as it pertains to websites.
In general there are some common characteristics of people who have a lower literacy:
People who are otherwise highly literate and intelligent might actually have a lower literacy when it comes to websites. Older people in their 50s, 60s, etc. are a perfect example of this. Anyone who has sat and watched how their parents use a website knows exactly what I’m talking about – some of those characteristics describe them perfectly.
Higher literacy is just the opposite. People who are highly literate, especially on the web, are able to look at a website quickly, scan it for what they’re looking for, and interpret what’s on the website and what the website has to offer them.
If you think this describes you perfectly, you’re not alone – there’s a significant gap in web literacy levels between older and younger generations. Younger people have been using websites for a greater percentage of their lives than older generations have, so they’re that much more familiar with them. Add in the fact that older generations tend to be more “afraid” of computers than younger generations are – such as clicking the wrong link, filling out a form, etc. – and you begin to account for that generational gap.
So how does lower literacy manifest itself when people use websites? Here are some common habits that lower literacy website visitors display:
How can you improve your website’s usability for lower literacy users in order to make it work for a broad audience? Here are some suggestions:
Do some of these tips sound familiar? If so, it’s because many of them are also general usability guidelines that you should be following anyways when creating your website. If you’ve already tried to incorporate many of them into your website and think that it’s as user-friendly as possible, then lower literacy visitors shouldn’t have much of a problem using it.
Is lower literacy something you should be concerned with if you have a website? Or do you think it’s dependent solely on who the particular audience for that website is – no different than gender, profession, interest, etc? Share your thoughts with everyone by leaving a comment below!