Thursday, October 15, 2009

Developer Discusses Dyslexia and Dyscalculia

Sabrina Dent, a web designer hailing from Ireland, has blogged about her struggle with dyslexia and dyscalculia and web applications today in the post, "Dyslexia, Dyscalculia and Design". For some context, she links to the Wikipedia article on dyscalculia and highlights the bits that apply to her:

  • An inability to read a sequence of numbers, or transposing them when repeated, such as turning 56 into 65.
  • Problems with differentiating between left and right.
  • Difficulty with everyday tasks like checking change and reading analogue clocks.

Sabrina discusses her experience with the examples of login screens (specifically the steps that require more detailed information than a username and password), phone numbers, and booking calendars.

It's a brief post, but it's insightful. As a web designer she understands the motivation for these types of interfaces, but that doesn't mean they are easy for her to use.

6 comments:

  1. Thanks for the link and the write-up, Adrian. You mentioned in your comment on my blog that you'd like it if I wrote more about this; I'd be happy to but as I live my whole life this way, the parts that would be interesting or of use to you are not clear to me. Feel free to drop me an email with anything you want to know and I'll be happy to make with the blog posts. I'm just delighted people found this vaguely interesting in the first place!

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  2. I find it fascinating. I've been working on an article for color blindness and I am constantly asking an uncle (who is classic red-green colorblind) how things look, what colors he sees, etc. Because I have no concept of what you experience I may have to think to come up with some questions, but I will.

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  3. Oh, well, this just occured to me: credit card entry forms. Probably you can read you whole CC number off your card and enter it into a box in any format asked for, but I can't. Therefore the format in which you request it is important to me (although I've yet to find a way to input a 16-digit number that qualifies as "easy.")

    We could also have a very long conversation about mobile phone predicitve text (which I hate with a burning, phone-throwing passion) and Ajax predictive text (which I like as long as I can click a drop-down to see ALL my choices.)

    I could also probably explain to you why vertically placed calendars are better if I put some thought into it.

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  4. keying off your comment about phone numbers, what if the card numbers were broken down into 4 4-digit chunks (fields)? The issue there, of course is with non-16-digit cards.

    I don't use the T9 or other predictive text on my phone and the browser auto-complete infuriates me, but probably for far different reasons.

    If you do post about calendars, please let me know since I'd love to learn more about what would work for you.

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  5. Having just had this very talk with Sabrina...

    The thing with CC fields is that you keep seeing the same problems:

    * Blocks-of-four are archaic (over here, at least, the actual card isn't printed with four blocks of four anymore, but as one string of 16) so she can lose track of which nonexistent four she's supposed to be entering,

    * That goes ten times over for sites which actually give you four fields with an input size of 4 chars because...

    * You can't copy and paste (a preferred option for her) into those, and

    * You also can't copy and paste into a field which is character-limited to 16 if the string you're pasting actually has the spaces in it (it gets truncated or beeps at you).

    Basically a freeform textfield is what she's looking for for CC numbers and removing spaces or dashes (or not) should be the developer's problem on POST.

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  6. That's interesting, I would not have guessed that one text field would have sufficed for credit card numbers given Sabrina's comments.

    I do agree wholeheartedly that it shouldn't be up to the user to strip spaces and hyphens. It's such an easy process to do server-side that I just assume developer laziness when I get an error message about those characters.

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