This is a brief summary of a few of the main ideas in the papers and resources listed above, as well as thoughts that came out of a conversation with Clayton Lewis and the Community for All design institute. Much research and work has been done in this area; for more details please refer to the specific resources above, and feel free to add any that you find useful.
The Complexity of Simplification
simplification can take many forms
what is simple for one user may introduce complexity for another
e.g. showing a Table of Contents may help some users navigate the page while adding complexity for others
allowing for customization is the best way to ensure that all users' needs are met, however consider:
consider the complexity of the configuration apparatus (e.g. the process of selecting items to show/hide in a toolbar is often buried in a menu and/or requires a number of steps to complete)
context-dependent, dynamically configuring interfaces can introduce complexity for users who rely on proceduralisation (memorised steps) to complete a task
Depth vs. Breadth in Interface Design
consider the trade-off of reduced clutter with having to navigate through multiple layers of the interface
maintaining intention through multiple layers can be difficult for some users
adding depth introduces the need for appropriate and clear conceptual categorisation
also need good-quality cues to indicate the logic of categories
Designing for Self-advocacy - Main Considerations
quick access to word meanings (dictionary on demand)
consistent use of icons and symbols across the space
the use of standard readability tests
results of standard readability tests on naturally-occurring text are usually accurate, however, once a text has been modified to achieve a higher readability score, the results may become inaccurate
e.g. chopping up sentences into shorter sentences improves readability score but can actually make the text more difficult to comprehend
trying to avoid complex words based on assumptions about user comprehension can make text more difficult to comprehend
depending on the context, using plain language may actually introduce complexity by replacing commonly-understood words or expressions (e.g. "security deposit")
a better solution would be to provide word definitions on demand
The Role of Assistance
want to encourage peer-to-peer assistance as much as possible
to support user autonomy
to give all users opportunity to contribute as well as receive help
to facilitate growth of a supportive community for every user
to facilitate participation in a community
how can we design tools/functionality to support mutual aid between users?
social matching - finding others who have similar needs
sharing of preference sets/configurations/customized content between users is one way of achieving this
consider also the role of family and non-expert service providers - how can the tools we design support their role in providing assistance while continuing to support user autonomy?
e.g. allowing an assistant to pre-configure an interface - how can user confirm that their needs are being met?
how can the tools we design allow a user to discover for themselves what their preferences are?
The Role of User Testing
while frequent and early user testing is important, this design approach can still result an interface which is inaccessible to many users
engaging in a co-design process where a broad range of end-users contribute to the design from inception to implementation means that user needs are more likely to be met
User as Designer
how can we provide configurability beyond simple transformations?
allow community of users to shape content as well as form and presentation