A11yAdvent Day 20: Content and Tone

On day 15 and 17, we discussed the importance of paying attention to the content itself. It matters for everyone, but especially for people with cognitive disorders such as post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and anxiety, as well as people on the aut…

On day 15 and 17, we discussed the importance of paying attention to the content itself. It matters for everyone, but especially for people with cognitive disorders such as post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and anxiety, as well as people on the autistic spectrum.

Generally speaking, being straightforward and unambiguous is the best way to avoid people being uncomfortable or confused. Figures of speech and idioms should be used sporadically as they can be difficult to grasp, especially for non-native speakers. Similarly, acronyms and abbreviations should be defined and used consistently.

The navigation, and generally speaking any sort of action, should be consistent across an entire platform. Main landmarks should not be moving around depending on the page, and a given action should be the same across pages.

Regarding the tone, be mindful of being too formal or too casual. Over recent years, more and more software companies have taken a more casual and friendly approach with their communication, but it can be found a little childish or patronising. Not everyone wants a lighthearted relationship with their bank or insurance provider. Humour is subjective and can be delicate to do well.

Similarly, error messages should be descriptive enough to understand what went wrong. Think twice before validating the wrong thing, and playfully shaming the user for making mistakes (such as “Woopsi-doopsie your name needs more than a character, silly!”). Be clear and succint with the expectations so the issue can be addressed.

Copy-writing is a skill and issuing consistent and clear interfaces and content across an entire website or application takes time and dedication. It’s also never perfect and needs to be refined regularly.


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