Making Voting Accessible Plain Language & Plain Interaction



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Making Voting Accessible

Plain Language & Plain Interaction

What if anyone could vote
on any device?

  • Dana Chisnell, Usability Works

  • Drew Davies, Oxide Designs

  • Kathryn Summers, University of Baltimore

Tablet, smartphone, computer…

  • Optimized for low literacy users

  • Plain language

  • Plain interaction

About the ballot

  • 18 pages

  • 14 races, one constitutional amendment, two ballot measures

About the testing

  • Paper prototype

  • 18 participants

  • 4 days

  • 16 versions

  • Digital Prototype

  • 15 participants

  • 4 days

  • 4 versions

Participants with

  • Low literacy skills (4th to 8th grade reading level)

  • Advanced age

  • Mild cognitive impairments (i.e., short-term memory loss)

Plain language

  • Ginny Redish and Dana Chisnell (2009) demonstrated the crucial role of plain language in ballot instructions for successful voting

Making it plain

  • Language tweaks that impacted voter success:

  • Eliminating ambiguous words

  • Reducing election jargon

  • Reducing the amount of text on key screens

  • Introductory

  • Review

  • confirmation

Button text

  • Several participants struggled with the “see additional candidates” button

  • To ease use

  • Text was simplified

  • Jargon was eliminated

Review screen text

Cast your ballot

Necessary hurdles

Plain language findings

  • Minimal text, short sentences

  • No jargon

  • Large typesize

Plain interaction

  • Transition from paper ballots electronic interfaces makes interaction design crucial

  • Previous research with low literacy participants on websites found that distractions, such as links, shifts in locus of action & sidebars, had detrimental effects on task success (Summer & Summers, 2005; Summers & Summers, 2006)

  • Our ballot interface confirmed that distractions can similarly impede the voting process

Plain interaction

  • We started off simple, and had to get even more simple:

  • Focused on immediate action

  • Eliminated supplemental content

  • Removed extra icons

  • Removed the BACK button from all the screens in the Review process

Instruction screen

Ballot item instructions

Text entry

Plain interaction findings

  • Find out what behaviors your participants want to use, and make them work if you can…

Our ballot lets users scroll by

  • pressing a button

  • dragging the scrollbar

  • flicking a finger

Plain interaction findings

  • Allow the users to touch anywhere on a name to select it

Supporting error recovery

Plain interaction findings

  • Support immediate action

  • Eliminate distractions and disruptions

  • Make natural user behaviors successful if possible

  • Iterative testing is a good way to be brilliant

Unfinished work

  • A toggle to have instructions and messages read aloud

  • A way to pause and resume voting



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