How to design a website for someone affected by dementia

Create accessible websites, applications and software for people affected by dementia with the help of our dementia digital design guidelines.

Many people will turn to online resources if they are worried about their memory, or coping with a diagnosis.

It’s vital that these sources of help and support are easy to find, use and comprehend.

Dementia, digital and design

There are nearly one million people living with dementia in the UK and this will grow to over two million by 2050.

Dementia is non-discriminatory; it affects people from all backgrounds and across generations.

This means that people affected by dementia are very diverse. They'll have very different levels of digital literacy, in addition to symptoms of dementia.

These issues can include confusion, perception and vision, problem solving and thinking speed, judgement, processing and sequencing information, language and words and other physical health conditions, too.

Help to make your website dementia-friendly

These Dementia Digital Design Guidelines are used to help design our online services, ensuring they’re accessible for all. They can be used as a framework to assess how dementia-friendly your website is. 

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5 things to consider with your digital designs

1. Include people affected by dementia

People with a dementia diagnosis should be included in all stages of design. Not only will this help you understand, validate and meet real needs, but it’ll also help improve your empathy for those for whom you are designing.

However, it can be hard to find and to recruit people affected by dementia. We recommend:

  • visiting people affected by dementia, rather than bringing them to you. You will learn more about their context of use, and reduce the burden on them,
  • using online dementia communities, like Dementia Talking Point and Reddit to reach representative people,
  • approaching local services in your area, like Dementia Cafes,
  • using social media, like Twitter and Facebook,
  • consider using specialist research participant recruiters.

2. Writing, words and terms

People with dementia may struggle with language, like remembering a word or terminology. Therefore use very clear, specific and explicit language. This means:

  • using simple, clear, direct and precise prose, headings and labels,
  • using explicit and arresting content,
  • using dementia positive language, like 'living with', rather than 'suffering from', dementia,
  • avoiding generic calls to action, complex wordplay, jargon,
  • avoiding using abbreviations and acronyms.

3. Layout, navigation and interface design

People with dementia can struggle to remember things and become disorientated. Try to make navigation explicit and signpost a route back to the homepage, or the start. This can be achieved by:

  • providing a clear link to 'Home', or the start,
  • using clear section breaks to make splits and stages obvious,
  • making hyperlink styles, and states, like ‘visited link’, clear,
  • avoiding splitting tasks across multiple screens,
  • avoiding hiding navigation off-screen.

4. Colours and contrast

Each type of dementia can damage the visual system in a number of different ways. Dementia also tends to affect older people, although it can affect younger people. This can mean that age-related visual decline may affect the person living with a diagnosis, or their carers, too.

When designing digital user interfaces consider:

  • using high contrast colour schemes to improve readability,
  • using plain backgrounds, rather than patterns or images, for textual content,
  • avoiding the use of blue, especially for important interface components.

5. Text and fonts

Making letter shapes and words simple and easy to perceive improves readability and comprehension for all people on all devices.

Our tips to make words more readable include:

  • using sans-serif fonts because the letter shapes are generally more readable on digital screens,
  • using larger text sizes (and higher contrasts) to provide more information to the eye. This is especially important for older people whose visual system declines with age,
  • avoid using multiple fonts, unnecessarily. This may make the interface and content confusing.

Summary

Most of these guidelines are inclusive in nature. This means that they can improve the ease of use of a service for many people, even if they don't have dementia.

This is an important part of accessible and inclusive design practice to consider. 

Accessibility is not just the law; it's a fantastic idea! 

That said, these guidelines are particularly important for people affected by a diagnosis.

Help us improve our digital services

We are always looking to improve our services in partnership with people affected by dementia. Would you like to take part in future design and research activities? If yes, then please complete this three question form so that we can contact you.

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5 comments

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Do you have examples of websites dealing with dementia in terms of Good Practice design principles please?

Hi Danny, thanks for your comment. Here’s a nice case study about designing a dementia-friendly website, and the outputs of that work…
https://www.smashingmagazine.com/2016/05/designing-a-dementia-friendly-…
https://dementiadiaries.org/.

Thanks,
Alzheimer's Society blog team

Hi there, do you have any advice for writing leaflets / posters for people with dementia?
Thanks

Hi Emma,
Thanks for getting in touch.
On this subject, we often refer people to The Dementia Engagement and Empowerment Project (DEEP). They have a great range of guides: http://dementiavoices.org.uk/resources/deep-guides/
This guide may be particularly useful when producing information for this audience: http://dementiavoices.org.uk/wp-content/uploads/2013/11/DEEP-Guide-Writ…
The guidance from the NHS on accessible information is also very useful. The main points are listed below:
• Use a minimum font size of 12 point, preferably 14 (which is readable by a significantly greater number of people).
• Use a clear, uncluttered and sans serif font such as Arial.
• Align text to the left margin and avoid justifying text.
• Ensure plenty of white space on documents, especially between sections.
• Avoid ‘squashing’ text onto a page and, if possible, include a double-space between paragraphs
• Print on matt and not gloss paper.
• Use page numbers.
• If printing double-sided ensure that the paper is of sufficient thickness to avoid text showing through from the other side.
• Correctly format Word documents and PDFs using styles and accessibility functions / checks. Ensure a correct and consistent heading structure.
• Consider making all ‘standard’ printed letters / documents ‘easier to read’ – using plain English, highlighting important information, and supporting text with diagrams, images or photographs.
Further guidance on writing for people with dementia can be found at http://www.nottingham.ac.uk/clahrc-ndl-nihr/documents/ppi/07-writingtip…
We hope this helps!

This information is extremely helpful. Thank you for publishing this article.

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