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10 Tips To Design Lower-Literacy Health Content

10 Tips to Design Lower-Literacy Health Content

Despite what you might think, lower literacy is not synonymous with being illiterate.  In fact, people of lower literacy can read, they just struggle due to a number of factors.  These factors include, but are not limited to, low income level, limited education, text appearing in a language other than one’s first language, and disabilities (e.g., dyslexia) (National Institutes of Health, 2016).  For some, online health resources are the only affordable health care option, so it is imperative that information be published by reputable sources in language that is clear to individuals with low literacy skills.  Delivering informational health content online that is confusing to low-literacy readers is a contributing factor to health disparities (National Institutes of Health, 2016).  Individuals who do not receive clear content are at increased risk for developing heart disease, diabetes, obesity, HIV/AIDS, and oral disease, and are more likely to die due to cancer (National Institutes of Health, 2016).  Below are tips to design legible content for lower-literacy readers on an online learning platform.

Tips to Design Lower-Literacy Health Content

  1. Use plain and simple language on an online learning platform with health resources (Caburnay et al., 2015).
  2. Place information in order of decreasing importance, with the most important information at the top (Caburnay et al., 2015).
  3. Use short paragraphs, large font size, and white space so that information does not appear to be overwhelming (Caburnay et al., 2015).
  4. Use clear labels and provide linear, user-friendly sequential information in your online learning platform (Caburnay et al., 2015).
  5. Include search functionality to better direct users of the online learning platform to relevant health information (Caburnay et al., 2015).
  6. Enable a printer-friendly button so that information can be easily printed for readers to share or more easily read themselves (Caburnay et al., 2015).
  7. Incorporate a simple question-and-answer format to direct readers to important questions regarding their health concern (Guan, Maloney, Roter, & Pollin, 2017).
  8. Incorporate videos to model proper health behaviors related to the particular health concern.  This can include important questions to ask the doctor, proper use of medicine, important steps to take if symptoms get worse, and so on (Guan et al., 2017).
  9. Incorporating carefully designed infographics increases low-literacy readers’ comprehension of health materials (Arcia et al., 2016).
  10. Utilize simple buttons and controls in the online learning platform to maximize the low-literacy user’s experience on your health-centered, online learning platform (Caburnay et al., 2015).
The simple format of this online learning platform appeals to both patients of high and low literacy skills.

Example of a Streamlined, User-Friendly Health Portal



Arcia, A., Suero-Tejeda, N., Bales, M. E., Merrill, J. A., Yoon, S., Woollen, J., & Bakken, S. (2016). Sometimes more is more: Iterative participatory design of infographics for engagement of community members with varying levels of health literacy. Journal of the American Medical Informatics Association, 23, 174–183. doi:10.1007/s10897-017-0155-y

Caburnay, C. A., Graff, K., Harris, J. K., McQueen, A., Smith, M., Fairchild, M., & Kreuter, M. W. (2015). Evaluating diabetes mobile applications for health literate designs and functionality, 2014. Preventing Chronic Disease, 12, e61. doi:10.5888/pcd12.140433  

Guan, Y., Maloney, K. A., Roter, D. L., & Pollin, T. I. (2017). Evaluation of the informational content, readability, and comprehensibility of online health information on monogenic diabetes. Jounal of Genetic Counseling, 26, 1–8. doi:10.1007/s10897-017-0155-y

National Institutes of Health. (2016, July 29). Clear & Simple. Retrieved from

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