Use Health Literacy Online to Improve the User Experience for Everyone

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Up to half of all American adults have limited literacy skills, and as many as 9 in 10 have limited health literacy skills. Online health information can be tricky for users with low literacy skills to understand — and it presents a unique set of challenges for professionals who create online health content, too.

People with low literacy skills are more likely to have difficulty finding, processing, and using information on the web. They may get distracted easily, give up reading quickly, and struggle with dense text and complex navigation.

That’s why ODPHP developed Health Literacy Online: A Guide for Simplifying the User Experience. This research-based guide aims to help professionals create health websites and other digital health information tools that are easy for low-literacy users to access and understand. The guide is written for anyone involved in creating online health content, from start to finish — writers and editors, content managers, digital strategists, user experience strategists, web designers, developers, and others.

Health Literacy Online offers strategies for writing, displaying, and organizing online health content. For example, these guidelines can help you:

  • Write simple, actionable content
  • Choose fonts that are easy to read
  • Organize and label content in ways that are intuitive for users
  • Design for a variety of screen sizes, including mobile phones
  • Test your site with limited-literacy users

Health Literacy Online also emphasizes that writing and designing with low-literacy users in mind has big benefits for us all — ultimately resulting in health websites that are easier for everyone to understand and use.

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