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Tip #6: Make the Language in Your Website Easy to Understand – Jojo Esposa Jr.

Here is another web accessibility recommendation that is listed under PWAG Maturity Stage 2-6. The equivalent World Wide Web Consortium Web Content Accessibility Guideline 1.0 (W3C WCAG) for this is:

Priority 1 – 14.1 – Use the clearest and simplest language appropriate for a site’s content.

What does it mean by “Content that is Easy to Understand”?

Although web documents are primarily written in English, still we cannot assume that everybody understands the content of our websites. Try to make your site as easy to comprehend as possible.

Avoid using jargons or words that only relates to a specific activity, profession, or group like medical profession, engineering terms, etc. Make your website appealing to a greater number of users by using simple to understand, commonly used and terse words and phrases.

How do I know if my site is easy to understand?

We can measure the level of understanding our documents. This is called Readability Test. It is the Mathematical computation of how easy it is to read and understand a document. Readability tests were first developed in the 1920s in the United States. They are mathematical formulas designed to know what books are suitable for American students at a certain age or grade level. This process was intended to make it easier for teachers, librarians and publishers to determine whether a book can be understood by its intended audience.

The formulas are based around the average words to a sentence, and the average syllables used per word. As such, they tend to reward short sentences made up of short words.

There are three popular American designed Readability tests. These are:

  1. Flesch Reading Ease – The result of the computation is an index number that rates the text on a 100-point scale. The higher the score, the easier it is to understand the document. Authors are encouraged to aim for a score of approximately 60 to 70.
  2. Gunning-Fog Index – It is a rough measure of how many years of schooling it would take someone to understand the content. The lower the number, the more understandable the content will be to your visitors. Results over seventeen are reported as seventeen, where seventeen is considered post-graduate level.
  3. Flesch-Kincaid Grade Level – Similar to the Gunning-Fog index, it is a rough measure of how many years of schooling it would take someone to understand the content. Negative results are reported as zero, and numbers over twelve are reported as twelve.

You can visit the Juicy Studio website to test the readability of your content:

http://juicystudio.com/services/readability.php

Simply type your site address and click on “Calculate Readability” button. The Reading Level Results will then be computed and shown to you.

You may also use another Online Readability Test specifically for blogs. It tells what level of education is required to understand your blog. Please note that the lower the level, the better it is for your website.

http://www.criticsrant.com/bb/reading_level.aspx

How do I make my site easy to understand?

For some educated ones, especially those who are very familiar with the English language, they tend to overdo the way they write. They use high sounding words to impress others. However, the key here is to convey information. If the information is hidden somewhere between those wordy sentences, then we are not doing our objective.

Here are some few tips in making your site readable:

  • Keep the content short and simple.
  • Cut long sentences.
  • Break information into small items, one key idea per paragraph.
  • Present items into a list form rather than a long paragraph.
  • Check your spelling and grammar errors.
  • Use meaningful headings and subheadings.
  • Avoid short cut or text messaging style of content.
References:
  1. PWAG Maturity Stage 2 – http://www.pwag.org/designrecommendations.htm
  2. W3C WAI Recommendation – http://www.w3.org/TR/WCAG10-TECHS/#tech-simple-and-straightforward
  3. Juicy Studio – http://www.juicystudio.com
  4. The Blog Readability Test – http://www.criticsrant.com/bb/reading_level.aspx

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