Developing Email Content for Subscribers with ADHD
Accessibility is often an afterthought in the email production process. Even when developers do consider accessibility, a huge emphasis is put on screen readers and visual impairments while other impairments are swept under the rug.
Have you ever considered how we can optimize emails for readers with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD)? You may be surprised by how simple it is to improve the experience for those users.
What Is ADHD?
ADHD is a group of behavioral symptoms that include inattentiveness, hyperactivity and impulsiveness.
Although most prevalent in children, symptoms often carry through to teenage years and into adulthood. More than 4% of US adults have ADHD.
How Does ADHD Affect Email Consumption?
ADHD has a lot of different symptoms and side effects, and many of these will affect how users consume emails. People with ADHD generally suffer from:
- Inability to focus
- Poor organizational skills
- A tendency to start new tasks before completing ongoing tasks
Because of these symptoms, users with ADHD may have a hard time getting through your entire email, or they may miss the message you are trying to convey.
How Do I Make My Email Easier to Consume for ADHD Readers?
Making emails easier to consume for these users is something that email developers and marketers should consider at the planning stage.
1. Always Maintain Logical Reading Patterns
You should ensure that you have clearly-defined content that maintains a logical reading pattern throughout the email. If a reader with ADHD can track the logical reading pattern of the email, he or she will be less likely to become distracted and disengage.
For an example of an email with a clearly defined and logical reading pattern, check out our newsletter. Take note of the use of large headers and colored sections to break up the content.
2. Avoid Disruptive Imagery
When using imagery in your emails you should always consider the goal of your image. If your images don’t compliment your content or provide extra context, leave them out. Using images for the sake of images will distract from the goal of the email.
3. Animation Best Practices
Using GIFs and CSS animations can help elevate any email program. However, before implementing any form of animation stop and consider animation best practices, and what you’re trying to achieve with the animation. Ask yourself:
- Is my animated content sufficiently described in the text of the email?
- Is my animation jarring?
- How many times does my animation need to loop?
The usual goal of animation is to grab attention, but for someone with ADHD, an attention grabber quickly becomes a distraction.
4. Consider Condensing Content
It’s a good idea to condense your content to the important points of the message. According to Lorna McKnight’s Designing for ADHD: In search of guidelines, “the use of simple and unambiguous language is already highly recommended in usability literature.”
Try and avoid using jargon and limit the length of your message. Where possible, try and use words and phrases that are familiar to your subscribers.
5. Showing Large Amounts of Data
You should also try to avoid including large tables of data in your emails. For someone with ADHD, these data-dense tables can be extremely daunting and push him or her away from enjoying your email.
If you do require a large data table in your email, consider using ‘zebra tables’ to make the tables easier to read.
6. Follow General Accessibility Guidelines
A lot of our general email accessibility tips will also help users who have ADHD. So, where possible, try and remember to:
- Use large clear fonts to minimize distractions. It’s recommended to use a minimum of 14px font for body copy.
- Provide a color scheme that isn’t too jarring; use ‘calm’ colors where possible.
- Distinguish important information by making it bold or using font sizes or color to make it stand out.
Bringing it All Together
Email accessibility isn’t about making emails plain or boring; rather, the goal is to make emails open and inclusive to all subscribers. Although the steps mentioned above may seem insignificant by themselves, when brought together they can make emails easier to consume for any reader, regardless of whether they have ADHD.
Design. Test. Relax.
Whether you’re new to creating accessible emails or an accessibility pro, it’s important to test every email, every time. Even the smallest adjustment in your code can throw off how your email renders. Try Email on Acid free for seven days and see how your email looks in more than 70 clients and devices. Send flawless emails you know your subscribers can read.
Author: Alex Ilhan
Hailing all the way from England, Alex brings his email development expertise along with an endless stream of cups of tea and British cynicism. Follow him on Twitter: @omgitsonlyalex.