Guidelines

Grammar

• Use simple sentences (subject, verb, object)

• Use correct grammar

• Use verbs in the active voice rather than the passive voice. Example: use “Mohammed mailed the letter” rather than “the letter was mailed”

• Use positive language and avoid the negation (e.g. expressions like can't, won't, unable to)

• Address the person not a group

• Approach the student in a direct and personal way (e.g. use the pronoun “you” instead of talking about “the student” or “he or she”)

• Avoid the use of pronouns because the reader has to infer to what subject they refer

• Use simple and commonly used verb tenses such as present, simple past and simple future

• Avoid inversions between the verbs and subject (e.g. “In the room sauntered a king penguin”)

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Vocabulary

• Use clear and simple text

• Avoid abstract concepts (ideas or concepts that have no physical reference). E.g. freedom, good, moral, democracy, and any -ism (chauvinism, Communism, feminism, racism, sexism)

• Avoid meaningless formal language (e.g. best practice, touch base, value added)

• Avoid hidden verbs. Use the strongest, most direct form of the verb (e.g. Don’t write “you need to carry out a review of your account”, write “you need to review your account”)

• Avoid metaphors and figures of speech. If necessary, illustrate them with practical examples

• Write as you talk. Use short words from everyday language that are used in oral communication

• Don’t turn verbs into nouns. (e.g. Don’t write “animal protection procedure development”, better write “developing procedures to protect animals”)

• Use vocabulary in its first meaning (common meaning)

• In text, always designate the same objects by the same word, i.e., avoid the use of synonyms

• Avoid abbreviations and acronyms

• If everyone knows an abbreviation, use it without explanation (e.g. BMW, AIDS)

• Try to avoid using legal and technical language (specialized vocabulary of any field)

• Omit unnecessary words (e.g. Write “to” instead of “in order to”)

• Omit excess words (e.g. Write “difficult” instead of “particularly difficult”)

• Don’t use slashes (e.g. Write either X, or Y, or both” then “X and/or Y)

• Do not borrow words from other languages. If this is unavoidable, explain them, except, commonly used words

• Use definitions rarely. If you can’t avoid them, use only a few

• Avoid long section of definitions. If you must have a section of definitions, put it at the beginning or the end of your document

• Use correct spelling

• Offer a search engine that forgives spelling errors

• Include spell checkers in search engines

• Offer pronunciations where meaning depends on it, mainly for heteronyms (Words that are spelled the same but have different pronunciations and meanings, such as the words “lead” (to guide/ dense metal) and “wound” (injury/to encircle))

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Text organization

• Start with the main idea - don’t start with an exception

• The elements of the content should follow a logical order. Structure critical pieces of information within close proximity to each other

• Put textual or visual elements that recur regularly in your presentation in the same place

• If you mention a procedure (numbered list of tasks), be sure to place the steps in a chronological order, like a cooking recipe

• Present related points in a list rather than a long paragraph.

• Use numbered lists rather than bullets

• Give each page a meaningful title. Use clear, meaningful and properly nested headings and subheadings

• Limit the number of subheadings

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Numbers

• Write the numbers using numerical symbols (1, 2, 3...)

• Don’t use Roman numerals

• Do not use percentages. If you want to use percentage, make sure that the reader already understands the concept.

• When it is necessary to write the date, do not write it in abbreviated form. Write it in this form: the day in numbers, the month in letters and the year in numbers

• If necessary, use phrases like "long ago" instead of a date to refer to the past

• Write addresses as they should appear on an envelope (not on one line)

• If necessary, use phrases like "too many” instead of large numbers 

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Information density

• Reduce short-term memory load. Do not overload the page with information.

• Ideally, submit one piece of information per sentence

• Change the page when you change the subject

• Use a maximum of 2 sentences per page, i.e.,60-70 characters per line

• Provide ways in which the student may recognize information, rather than be required to recall it

• Use indicators such as colour, text layout, shape/texture, and audio to provide contextual clues and easy recognition

• Be consistent in the use of the indicator: An indicator must signify the same thing throughout the text

• Use visual cues to highlight important points or sections of the content.

• Remove information the student doesn’t want or need

• Avoid sounds, animations and other moving content that are played without the student specifically interacting with the interface

• Don’t suppose any knowledge to be already acquired by the reader. Describe as much as possible

• Use examples to clarify complex concepts. Examples help to explain by linking prior experiences with new information

• Minimize cross-references to other documents, fields of knowledge or events. If the reference is necessary, it is better to join the other document and ensure it also meets the simplification rules

• Avoid presenting the student with noise stimuli, e.g. extensive use of illustrations, audio background, pop-up windows, etc. may distract the reader

• Reduce the number of instructions needed for the student to perform the required task

• Ensure that the procedure for executing a task (e.g. searching on the Web) is always the same

• Present the student with one instruction at a time. Avoid simultaneous tasks.

• Repeat the instruction each time you refer to it

• Provide simple reminders such as "step 2 of 4" to help the student keep track of what he has already done and what he has left to do

• Replace the comma with a newline when enumerating

• Provide the student with clues to estimate the duration of an activity and when it ends

• Avoid time based events (e.g. auto refresh, redirects, shut outs). Allow the student to interact with the interface at his/her pace

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Layout

• Use uncluttered, simple screen layout

• Use consistent navigation and design on every page

• Justify the text only on the left. Use ragged edge right hand margins

• Use wide margins

• Use more space between lines (1.5 to 2 times line spacing)

• Don’t split words at the end of the line

• Use a 1 column (or max 2 columns with graphics) layout with generous margins on each side

• Avoid the presentation of text in many columns

• Do not present information as a brochure or other presentation formats that do not read like a standard book

• Avoid or minimize automatic and vertical scrolling. Students may not read at same rate as scrolling feature

• Avoid the horizontal scrolling of the text

• Limit the use of background images

• Never use shading

• Avoid the use of page frames

• Avoid background audio sound

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Links and buttons

• Ensure that all interface navigation is in one location

• The location of the interface elements must be kept in similar contexts (e.g. the link to the main page must be always in the same place.)

• Linked text should indicate the nature of the link target (e.g. avoid “click here” because it is ambiguous and doesn’t provide the student with direction)

• When a linked text appears more than once on a page, it should point to the same link target

• Links should not be a single word or letter

• Avoid presenting the complete URL address of a link

• Links presented as buttons or icons should be large enough

• Use consistent methods of indicating a link (e.g. blue underlined text)

• A non-clickable text must not seem to be clickable (e.g., if your links are one colour, do not use that colour for a non-clickable)

• Avoid using images as the only way for linking to something

• Highlight and clearly place buttons and links which close the page, return to the previous page or go to the following page

• Make sure that the links leading towards another page of the interface opens in another page in the style of a pop-up window without being blocked

• Make sure that the new page that opens is smaller than the page under it, in order to not to lose sight of the place where the student had clicked the link

• Have simple navigation, with just a few choices, rather than navigation with lots of choices

• In presenting the navigation bar, it is better to present it from left to right than from up to down. It is difficult and frustrating to read a document that can begin and end anywhere and that is different from the usual presentation of a “standard book”

• Use skinny panels for presenting menu options. When using large panels, we hide the content each time we open the options menu, which makes it difficult to use

• Place navigation bar horizontally to leave maximum space for text and white space

• Use a maximum of 6 links in navigation bar

• Avoid using cascading menus

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Punctuation

• Adjust punctuation to make the text more alive, and hence easier to understand.

• In general, use a period, a question mark, an exclamation mark or an apostrophe

• Limit the use of semicolons, colons, hyphens, parentheses’, commas and ellipses

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Font

• Use a font containing characters whose letters are clear, easy to discern and without serif such as Arial, Veranda, Helvetica, Tahoma. It is better to choose a font that looks like the handwriting (for e.g., comic sans MS)

• Use large fonts (14 points minimum)

• Allow the ability to resize text

• Make sure that the page remains readable and functional when the text is enlarged

• Avoid italics, capital letters and fancy fonts because they deform letters

• To highlight a text, use colours, font weights and larger fonts

• Highlighting should be used sparingly. Used to excess, it risks losing its effect

• Avoid underlining words because it has too many connotations: it suggests that the underlined text is a link

• Limit the number of fonts used. Use a maximum of two fonts in a text, one for titles and another for the text

• If you use special fonts, you must be consistent in their use (e.g. If you use a special font for the subtitles, you must only use it for all the subtitles of the document)

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Colour

• Use colour to reinforce information presented in text, images or icons. However, make sure that information presented in colour should also be evident without colour

• Do not use colour alone to convey information

• Provide sufficient contrast between text and background

• Avoid high contrast flickering or intense blinking colours

• If flickering, flashing or blinking content is used, be sure to limit its length

• If flickering, flashing or blinking content is used, be sure that the interface provides a mechanism to stop the blinking (e.g. “Stop animation”)

• Ensure that colour symbolizes the same thing in all the text

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Illustrations

• Use pictures, icons and symbols along with text

• Illustrations must be clear, precise and in colour if possible

• Illustrations should be requiring no further explanation to be understood

• Illustrations must load quickly and at the same time as the text

• Allow the ability to increase of the size of the illustrations

• Ensure that the images are readable and understandable when they are enlarged

• Accompany any illustration with a brief and simple explanatory text

• Minimize the use of graphics

• Give all illustrations clear concise and relevant titles

• Summarize through text information given through visual keys, such as data, trends and implications of charts and graphs

• Illustrations must not satisfy aesthetics requirements only

• When the text refers to a known person, place or object, add, if possible, its photo

• Avoid images that flash more than 4 times per second

• Illustrations must show a common view of the object or the situation presented in the text (avoid underground, aerial or partial views)

• When using symbols, use those with whom the student is familiar or those frequently used

• Group the different visual elements by location or format

• Ensure consistency in the way of grouping the elements (same format, same location)

• Avoid animated images when they are next to a text. The reader is usually distracted from the text to focus on the moving images

• Avoid extensive use of pictograms and images because students may learn how to decode illustrations and not learn to read

• Use mental imagery and teach high image words first then increase difficulty by gradually moving to less visually charged words

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Tables

• Use tables to make complex material easier to understand (e.g. an "if-then" table that organizes the material by a situation (if something is the case) and the consequence (then something else happens)

• Avoid large, multiple entries and complex tables

• Better to use simple entrance tables (e.g. three simple tables are easier to understand than one that is complicated)

• Make sure table headers describe adequately the concerned column or row

• Summarize all tables

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Forms and fields

• Limit the amount of information that forms require; collect only the minimum information needed

• According to the nature of your form, organize your fields following one of these principles:

            o Put the most important information at the beginning 

            o Put the general information first, with specialized information or exceptions to the general information later

            o Organize your fields chronologically

• Make sure that the information asked in forms are short and basic (e.g. first name, last name, e-mail address)  

• Put text fields’ labels very close to the entry field

• Do not use only coloured highlighting to indicate errors on form

• Do not rely only on asterisk (*) to indicate required fields

• When students must make a choice, warn them that the choice is coming and tell them how many options they have

• When students must make a choice, keep all possibilities in the same vicinity

• When students must make a choice, limit the number of choice possibilities and include the important ones

• Stack fields in vertical column

• Offer standard entry fields for phone numbers

• On any page with a single selection box or entry field, put the Go button as close as possible to that box or field

• In forms, put the ‘Submit’ button as close as possible to the last field entry box or selection tool on the form

• Put any instructions pertaining to a particular field before the field, not after it.

• Guarantee that the student has enough time to fill out the form

• Give the student a quick, clear and brief feedback (error message, skip the following step, etc.)

• Have forms that automatically send, rather than have to be sent via email

• Limit the use of buttons in a form. A simple "send" button is enough

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Video/audio/multimedia supplements

• Provide information in multiple formats, with a heavy emphasis on visual formats

• Make sure your content is compatible with screen readers or other voicing tools

• Provide voice captions (audio files for text)

• Make sure that the voice in the audio tracks is clear and well articulated

• Make sure that the content of the audio version corresponds correctly to the text version

• Provide text alternatives to non-text content (e.g. Image captions)

• Transcribe audio tracks

• Use video to supplement text. A moving, talking person in a video may be easier to identify and mentally process than a textual content or even a static image of a person in a photograph

• Provide audio descriptions and text alternatives to videos

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