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Culture Counts: Engaging Black and Latino Parents of Young Children in Family Support Programs

This report provides an overview of family support programs and aims to identify the features and strategies that may be most effective for reaching and engaging black and Latino families, with the ultimate goal of supporting young children’s development.

Find the report, Culture Counts: Engaging Black and Latino Parents of Young Children in Family Support Programs at:  http://www.childtrends.org/wp-content/uploads/2014/10/2014-44BCultureCountsFullReport.pdf

Questions & Answers Regarding Inclusion of English Learners with Disabilities in English Language Proficiency Assessments

This guidance document is intended to help states and LEAs understand how Part B of the IDEA and Titles I and III of the ESEA address the inclusion of English learners with disabilities in annual state assessments of English language proficiency (ELP) required  under ESEA. The Office of Elementary and Secondary Education (OESE) administers the ESEA and the Office of Special Education and Rehabilitative Services (OSERS) administers Part B of IDEA. OESE and OSERS jointly issue this guidance.

Cover Letter:
Word (203KB) | PDF (216KB)

Q&A:
Word (250KB) | PDF (94KB)

The State of Learning Disabilities: Facts, Trends and Emerging Issues

The updated and expanded third edition of NCLD’s The State of Learning Disabilities report captures data about the 5%  of our nation’s school-age population whose learning disabilities (LD) have been formally identified, and provides a critical lens through which to understand and address the needs of the additional 15% or more of students with unidentified and unaddressed learning and attention issues.

This report is an essential resource for anyone who is concerned about the 1 in 5 children, adolescents and adults who are impacted by learning and attention issues, whether in school, at home, and or in the workplace.

Find The State of Learning Disabilities at:
http://www.ncld.org/types-learning-disabilities/what-is-ld/state-of-learning-disabilities

 

Moving Your Numbers: Using Assessment and Accountability to Increase Performance for Students with Disabilities as Part of District-Wide Improvement

Moving Your Numbers identifies six essential practices that may be in place to improve the performance of students with disabilities. Evidence suggests that these six practices are associated with higher student achievement. These practices are:

  • use data well
  • focus your goals
  • select and implement shared instructional practices (individually and collectively)
  • implement deeply
  • monitor and provide feedback and support
  • inquire and learn

There are multiple versions of this guide, each tailored to a specific audience of users, such as parent/family, administrator, and teacher.  Read or download the guide of your choice (and other resources) at:

http://movingyournumbers.org/tools-and-resources/myn-downloadable-resources

Module 3: Pre-Referral and Referral Activities

Title slide for Module 3September 2014
A legacy training module from NICHCY

Every State’s early intervention system must include a child find system that ensures that all infants and toddlers with disabilities eligible for EI services are identified, located, and evaluated. That’s quite a sweeping obligation.

This module takes a detailed look at what the Part C regulations require in terms of the  activities States must carry out as part of their “child find” obligations. Module 3 provides trainers with:

  • 1 slideshow presentation about pre-referral and referral activities;
  • a separate, “concluding” slideshow that can be used to review;
  • a trainer’s guide explaining all the content;
  • Speaker Notes for both slideshows; and
  • 2 handouts and 1 activity sheet for participants.

Please help yourself! Download the components you need to learn on your own and/or to train others about pre-referral and referral activities in Part C.

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Files You’ll Need to Download

Trainer’s Guide | The trainer’s guide to Module 3 focuses on the content emphasized in the module—namely,  conducting a public awareness program, setting up a referral system, and maintaining a Central Directory. Moving slide by slide, the trainer’s guide provides images of each slide, instructions for how to operate the slide (e.g., when to click to reveal more of the slide or to advance to the next slide), and an explanation of the content on the slide. The trainer’s guide is available in two formats, for your convenience:

PDF | Trainer’s Guide for Module 3 (66 pages)

Word | Trainer’s Guide for Module 3 (for accessibility)

Slideshow | The main slideshow for Module 3 has 18 slides in total. So does the Jeopardy-style review slideshow (optional concluding activity). Both are provided as a PowerPoint Show. Download the file sto your computer. As a SHOW, each slideshow will automatically launch when you open the file. They will then operate as described in the Trainer’s Guide.

Slideshow for Module 3

Slideshow for Jeopardy-style Review (optional)

Speaker Notes | We know from experience that many trainers find it helpful to have Speaker Notes of the slideshow. The Speaker Notes show each slide picture with blank lines beneath (for taking notes). Use the Speaker Notes for your own planning (it’s in Word, so you can add your own notes where the blank lines are) or share it with participants for their own taking of notes.

Speaker Notes of the slides in Module 3 | in Word

Speaker Notes of the slideshow for the Jeopardy-style review | in Word

Pictures of individual slides in Module 3 | in PDF

Handouts  and Activity Sheets for Participants | Module 3 comes with 2 handouts and 1 activity sheet for participants. Each is provided in PDF and Word formats. The PDF is designed to share with participants. The Word version is made available for those participants who need or request accessible materials.

Handout  4 | Comprehensive Child Find System  (IDEA’s verbatim regulations)

~~ Handout 4 in PDF
~~ Handout 4 in Word (for accessibility)

Handout  5 | Public Awareness and the Central Directory (IDEA’s verbatim regulations)

~~ Handout 5 in PDF
~~ Handout 5 in Word (for accessibility)

Activity Sheet 10 | How Many Places and People Can You Name?

~~ Activity Sheet 10 in PDF
~~ Activity Sheet 10 in Word (for accessibility)

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And there you have it, Module 4 on the pre-referral and referral activities that States must conduct in Part C. We wish you good luck with all your trainings!

 

Module 5: Procedures for IFSP Development, Review, and Evaluation

Title slide in Module 5September 2014
A legacy training module from NICHCY

Every child receiving early intervention services under Part C of IDEA must have an IFSP—an individualized family service plan.

This module takes a detailed look at what the Part C regulations require in terms of the procedures used to develop, review, and evaluate a child’s IFSP. Module 5 includes:

  • 1 slideshow presentation;
  • a trainer’s guide explaining all the content;
  • a Speaker Notes version of the slideshow; and
  • 1 handout and 2 activity sheets for participants.

Please help yourself! Download the components you need to learn on your own and/or to train others on how IFSPs are developed, reviewed, and revised; who is involved; and what procedures are required, including use of the child’s and family’s native language.

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Files You’ll Need to Download

Trainer’s Guide | The trainer’s guide to Module 5 focuses on the content emphasized in the module—namely, an overview of the procedures that lead agencies and early intervention providers must follow when a baby or toddler’s IFSP is developed, reviewed, and evaluated. Moving slide by slide, the trainer’s guide provides images of each slide, instructions for how to operate the slide (e.g., when to click to reveal more of the slide or to advance to the next slide), and an explanation of the content on the slide. The trainer’s guide is available in two formats, for your convenience:

PDF | Trainer’s Guide for Module 5 (34 pages)

Word | Trainer’s Guide for Module 5 (for accessibility)

Slideshow | The slideshow for Module 5 has 11 slides in total. The file is provided as a PowerPoint Show. Download the file to your computer. As a SHOW, the slideshow will automatically launch when you open the file. It will then operate as described in the Trainer’s Guide.

Slideshow for Module 5

Speaker Notes | We know from experience that many trainers find it helpful to have a Speaker Notes version of the slideshow. The Speaker Notes version shows each slide picture on the left and provides blank lines on the right (for taking notes). Use the Speaker Notes version for your own planning (it’s in Word, so you can add your own notes where the blank lines are) or share it with participants for their own taking of notes.

Speaker Notes version of the slides in Module 5 | in Word

Pictures of individual slides in Module 5 | in PDF (7 pages)

Handouts  and Activity Sheets for Participants | Module 5 comes with one handout and two optional activity sheets for you to share with participants. Handout 8 gives participants the verbatim Part C regulations for IFSP procedures. Activity Sheet 7 takes a look at the contents of the IFSP. Activity 8 presents a case study. Each of these documents is provided in PDF and Word formats. The PDF is designed to share with participants. The Word version is made available for those participants who need or request accessible materials.

Handout  8 | Individualized Family Service Plan  (IDEA’s verbatim regulations)

~~ Handout 8 in PDF
~~ Handout 8 in Word (for accessibility)

Activity Sheet 7 | A Quick Look at the Content of an IFSP

~~ Activity Sheet 7 in PDF
~~ Activity Sheet 7 in Word (for accessibility)

Activity Sheet 8 | Case Study: Extended Family Participation in the IFSP Meeting

~~ Activity Sheet 8 in PDF
~~ Activity Sheet 8 in Word (for accessibility)

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And there you have it, Module 5 on the procedures for developing, reviewing, and evaluating the IFSP! We wish you good luck with all your trainings!

Return to the Table of Contents of Building the Legacy for Our Youngest Children with Disabilities

 

Module 6: Content of the IFSP

Title slide of Module 6, Content of the IFSPSeptember 2014
A legacy training module from NICHCY

Every child receiving early intervention services under Part C of IDEA must have an IFSP—an individualized family service plan.

This module takes a detailed look at the content that must be included in each child’s IFSP, according to the Part C regulations. Module 6 includes:

  • 1 slideshow presentation;
  • a trainer’s guide explaining all the content;
  • a Speaker’s Notes version of the slideshow; and
  • 2 handouts and 1 optional activity sheet for participants.

Please help yourself! Download the components you need to learn on your own and/or to train others on the content of the IFSP.

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Files You’ll Need to Download

Trainer’s Guide | The trainer’s guide to Module 6 takes a close look at each element that’s included in the IFSP of a baby or toddler receiving early intervention services under Part C of IDEA. Moving slide by slide, the trainer’s guide provides images of each slide, instructions for how to operate the slide (e.g., when to click to reveal more of the slide or to advance to the next slide), and an explanation of the content on the slide. The trainer’s guide is available in two formats, for your convenience:

PDF | Trainer’s Guide for Module 6 (62 pages)

Word | Trainer’s Guide for Module 6 (for accessibility)

Slideshow | The slideshow for Module 6 has 21 slides in total. The file is provided as a PowerPoint Show. Download the file to your computer. As a SHOW, the slideshow will automatically launch when you open the file. It will then operate as described in the Trainer’s Guide.

Slideshow for Module 6

Speaker Notes | We know from experience that many trainers find it helpful to have a Speaker Notes version of the slideshow. The Speaker Notes version shows each slide picture and provides blank lines below (for taking notes). Use the Speaker Notes version for your own planning (it’s in Word, so you can add your own notes where the blank lines are) or share it with participants for their own taking of notes.

Speaker Notes version of the slides in Module 6 | in Word

Pictures of individual slides in Module 6 | in PDF (6 pages)

Handouts  and Activity Sheets for Participants | Module 6 comes with 2 handouts and 1 optional activity sheet for you to share with participants. Each is provided in PDF and Word formats. The PDF is designed to share with participants. The Word version is made available for those participants who need or request accessible materials.

Handout  8 | Individualized Family Service Plan  (IDEA’s verbatim regulations)

~~ Handout 8 in PDF
~~ Handout 8 in Word (for accessibility)

Handout  11 | Model IFSP Form (developed by the U.S. Department of Education

~~ Handout 11 in PDF
~~ Handout 11 in Word (for accessibility)

Activity Sheet 9 | IFSP Review

~~ Activity Sheet 9 in PDF
~~ Activity Sheet 9 in Word (for accessibility)

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And there you have it, Module 6 on the required content of the IFSP. We wish you good luck with all your trainings!

Return to the Table of Contents for Building the Legacy for Our Youngest Children with Disabilities

Module 14: System of Payments and Use of Public and Private Insurance in Part C

Title slide in Module 14 slideshowSeptember 2014
A legacy training module from NICHCY

 

Funding the early intervention services that eligible infants and toddlers with disabilities (and their families) receive is a challenging affair for the federal government, State systems, and local systems. The federal appropriations for Part C for the year 2013 are in the order of $419.7 million! 

So, big surprise: It’s very important for State lead agencies to be fiscally responsible, have detailed written guidelines and policies regarding use of funds under Part C, disclose those policies to families, and work closely with other agencies and entities to provide and fund the range of services needed by babies, toddlers, and families involved in Part C.

This module takes a detailed look at what the Part C regulations require in terms of how Part C funds may be used. Module 14 includes:

  • 1 slideshow presentation;
  • a trainer’s guide explaining all the content;
  • a Speaker Notes version of the slideshow; and
  • 1 handout and 3 activity sheets for participants.

Please help yourself! Download the components you need to learn on your own and/or to train others on States’ systems of payment and the use of public and private insurance in Part C.

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Files You’ll Need to Download

Trainer’s Guide | The trainer’s guide to Module 14 focuses on the content emphasized in the module—namely, how States may permissibly use Part C funds. Moving slide by slide, the trainer’s guide provides images of each slide, instructions for how to operate the slide (e.g., when to click to reveal more of the slide or to advance to the next slide), and an explanation of the content on the slide. The trainer’s guide is available in two formats, for your convenience:

PDF | Trainer’s Guide for Module 14 (90 pages)

Word | Trainer’s Guide for Module 14 (for accessibility)

Slideshow | The slideshow for Module 14 has 32 slides in total. The file is provided as a PowerPoint Show. Download the file to your computer. As a SHOW, the slideshow will automatically launch when you open the file. It will then operate as described in the Trainer’s Guide.

Slideshow for Module 14

Speaker Notes | We know from experience that many trainers find it helpful to have a Speaker Notes version of the slideshow. The Speaker Notes version shows each slide picture on the left and provides blank lines on the right (for taking notes). Use the Speaker Notes version for your own planning (it’s in Word, so you can add your own notes where the blank lines are) or share it with participants for their own taking of notes.

Speaker Notes version of the slides in Module 14 | in Word

Pictures of individual slides in Module 14 | in PDF

Handouts  and Activity Sheets for Participants | Module 14 comes with one handout and three optional activity sheets for you to share with participants. Each is provided in PDF and Word formats. The PDF is designed to share with participants. The Word version is made available for those participants who need or request accessible materials.

Handout 13 | Subpart F—Use of Funds and Payor of Last Resort (IDEA’s verbatim regulations)

~~ Handout 13 in PDF
~~ Handout 13 in Word (for accessibility)

Activity Sheet 11 | What’s Available in Your State?

~~ Activity Sheet 11 in PDF
~~ Activity Sheet 11 in Word (for accessibility)

Activity Sheet 12 | Putting It All Together: Case Study 1

~~ Activity Sheet 12 in PDF
~~ Activity Sheet 12 in Word (for accessibility)

Activity Sheet 13 |  Putting It All Together: Case Study 1

~~ Activity Sheet 13 in PDF
~~ Activity Sheet 13 in Word (for accessibility)

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And there you have it, Module 14 on the system of payments and the use of public and private insurance in Part C! We wish you good luck with all your trainings!

Return to the Table of Contents for Building the Legacy for Our Youngest Children with Disabilities

 

Writing for the Web

Image of a computer keyboard, with the earth behind.September 2014
A legacy dissemination resource from NICHCY

Is your website one of your project’s most valuable ways of disseminating information? If so, this page will give you 6 tips for writing content that engages and motivates your web visitors—and, most importantly, helps them find the information they’re looking for. The tips are:

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1 | Understand How People Read on the Web

People come to your webpage with a mission, a question they want to answer, a task they want to know how to do. They don’t really read your content—they scan and skim it until they hit the keyword, question, or heading that speaks to their mission. If they don’t see what they’re looking for, poof! they exit. Sometimes in a matter of seconds.

Here are three interesting findings from research to consider:

  • Web users swipe what they see on their screen in a roughly F-shaped pattern (two horizontal swipes followed by a vertical swipe).
  • Headings and subheadings catch their eye.
  • So do headings posed as questions.
These findings offer all of us powerful insights into how to design our websites to match the way that users search for information on the web.  ||  Read more about how people read on the web


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2 | Help Readers Skim and Scan

Consider how users read—and don’t read—content. They’ve come on a mission, and you can help them accomplish that mission efficiently with the way you design and write for the web.  Here are four ways you can help web users skim and scan:

  • Use the tips discussed on this page, because all of them will help speed your web visitors to the content that’s relevant to them.
  • Include a table of contents that makes it easy for readers to see what content the webpage includes and jump to sections of interest to them.
  • Keep paragraphs short and use the keywords that readers themselves use.
  • Don’t center text on the page. Visitors often don’t even see it!

Read more about how to help readers skim and scan

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3 | Put the Essential Message First

Because web users don’t read text thoroughly or for very long, make sure your webpages state your essential message first, right up front. In the first two paragraphs, in fact. Use keywords and an active voice to give a quick summary that orients readers to the page and what they’ll find there.

People also pay the most attention to the first and last words in a sentence—and to the first and last sentences in a paragraph. Strategically place keywords and important information there. If that information is what visitors are looking for, bull’s eye! They’ve found it—and efficiently. || Read more about putting the essential message first

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4 | Chunk Your Information

The average computer screen doesn’t display a lot of content at one time, and you can’t count on visitors scrolling down to see more. Make it easier for readers to scan your content by:

  • delivering it in small paragraphs (maybe no more than 100 words)
  • breaking up longer paragraphs into bulleted lists, which readers can quickly skim and, at the same time, absorb
  • taking out the fluff and the unnecessary, paring the content down to an understandable minimum

You can always offer more detailed information on the subject in a separate page, for visitors who need and want the details. ||  Read more about chunking content

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5 | Use Headings and Subheadings

Web visitors definitely make use of a webpage’s headings and subheadings in their rapid eye scan for content of interest. Headings and subheadings are also a useful way to break up content and make it easier to read. To write good headings and subheadings:

  • Use active, strong, information-carrying words, which also helps search engines find and share your page
  • Pose questions, especially questions that mirror those that your web visitors have
  • Code all headings and subheadings with HTML tags that mark them as an H1, h4, h4, or H4 heading (rather than just bolding the text). This enables visitors who use screen-readers to skim the page, jumping from one heading to another until they strike on the piece of information they were looking for.

Read more about using headings and subheadings

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6 | Write in Plain Language

It’s always a good idea to write in plain, understandable language, but never more than on the web. Plain language is friendly and easy-going, avoids jargon (or explains it), and is characterized by shorter sentences written in an active, engaging voice.  It’s especially helpful to readers with limited reading skills or English skills. ||  Read more about writing in plain language

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How People Read on the Web

A man looks at his computer screen with concentration.

Eye-tracking studies tell us a lot about how people read on the web.

August 2012
A legacy dissemination resource from NICHCY

 

Understanding how people read on the web and search for information can directly influence how we design our webpages and websites. One of the most influential researchers into web reading behavior has been Jakob Nielsen, who sums up his findings like this:

How Users Read on the Web
They don’t. (1)

The truth is, people are going to skim and scan all the lovely content you’ve written, looking for something (a keyword, a header perhaps?) that catches their attention or matches the reason they’re visiting your website in the first place.

But we’re getting ahead of ourselves. First, the research.

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Eye-Tracking Studies of Reading

We’ve learned a lot about how people read on the web by tracking people’s eye movements and fixation points while they look at web content. Interestingly, eye-tracking studies have been conducted since the 1800’s as part of learning more about how we read.  From those early studies, researchers learned that:

Reading is not a smooth process of moving our gaze from left to right as we follow the words across the page.

We sweep our eyes over the text and often stop briefly (called fixations), then move forward to new text or go back over the text we’ve already scanned. (2)

The chances that a reader will fixate on an individual word depends on how long the word is (we tend to skip over short words) and whether the word is a content word (85%) or a function word (35%). (3)

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Eye-Tracking Studies of Reading on the Web

Eye-tracking studies have also greatly informed what we know about how people read on the Internet. Because the Internet has become such a rich source of information, web visitors can and do make lightning-fast decisions about whether a webpage is worth reading. They sweep their eyes across the page in a pattern that’s roughly shaped like an F, starting in the upper left corner. They take two horizontal swipes across the page, then swipe vertically down the left. These three heatmaps of web users’ eye movements capture this dominant reading pattern.

Heat map of readers' eye movements form a rough pattern that looks like the letter F.

     The F-shaped pattern for reading web content.

 

See the F? (It’s especially apparent in the center picture.)  These pictures come from Jakob Nielsen’s research, as posted on his website. (4)

Nielsen’s been studying the reading behaviors of web users since 1995, and his findings are as fascinating as they are useful for web designers and web content writers. His website is also a testament to those findings, because its design is driven by them.

So, in addition to identifying the F-shaped pattern that readers on the web use, what else has Nielsen found? What conclusions does he draw about how we should then design and present our content so users can quickly find what they’re looking for? Read on, and see.

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Users Look Most Above the Fold

  • Web users spend 80% of their time looking at information above the page fold (meaning, the part of the webpage that’s visible when users first land there). Although users do scroll, they allocate only 20% of their attention below the fold. (5)
  • Users spend 69% of their time looking at the left half of the webpage and 30% viewing the right half. (6)
Implications  for Content Writers
  • Put the most important content first, in the opening sentences and paragraphs. Don’t start with that nice, smooth blah-blah intro.
  • Get to the point. Immediately.
  • Users are much more likely to scroll past the fold if the first content they see captures their attention or matches their need.
  • Don’t center text (since readers strongly prefer the left side of the page and won’t even see text that’s centered).
  • Keep headers (and links) flush to the left margin, so that visitors can readily see them, especially during their downward swipe of the page (the stem of the “F” pattern).

Example
Each content page of Nielsen’s site starts with a summary of no more than 2 or 3 sentences placed on a light yellow background, so that visitors get the essential message of that page immediately.

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Users Scan and Skim Web Content

  • Web users at most have the time to read little more than 20% of the words on a webpage during an average visit. (7)
  • “Scanning text is an extremely common behavior for higher-literacy users.” (8)
  • Lower-literacy users “plow text” rather than scan it.  (9)

Implications  for Content Writers

  • Make webpage text easy for users to scan.
  • Use bolded headings and subheadings that make sense and include keywords of the content.
  • Use bulleted lists when you can to break up content. Bullets are also easy to scan.
  • Read the suggestions offered in Helping Readers Skim and Scan.

Example
This page is purposefully written to be easy to scan and skim through.

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Credibility Matters

Credibility of the website is important to visitors. They want to know that the information offered is accurate and objective. They ignore any page that sounds or looks like an ad.  Exaggerations, boasts, and market-ese hype also turn visitors off—and cause them to leave. As Nielsen says, “Web users are busy; they want to get the straight facts.” (10)

Implications for Content Writers

  • Write in plain language that’s stripped of big claims or promises you can’t keep.
  • Use objective, non-biased language. Avoid “loaded” words that spark strong emotions or indicate your particular viewpoint or opinion.
  • Offer an “About Us” section that says who you are, what you do, and what services or products you offer to visitors to your site. Include a tagline on your home page that summarizes, in one sentence or phrase, what you do.

Example | Here’s a sampling of taglines from around the TA&D network…

Center Tagline
CADRE Encouraging the use of mediation and other collaborative strategies to resolve disagreements about special education and early intervention programs
IDEA Partnership Dedicated to improving outcomes for students and youth with disabilities through shared work and learning
NICHCY Helping you help children with disabilities
PEPNet Advancing educational opportunities for people who are deaf or hard of hearing
Reading Rockets Teaching kids to read and helping those who struggle
NCIPP Your source for induction and mentoring in special education

Wouldn’t you agree that these taglines make it instantly clear what the mission of the project is? Visitors get an instant “read” on who and what we are and what we’re up to, with taglines like these.

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PDF Files Can Cause Problems

Oh, say it isn’t so! PDFs seem like such a nice thing to offer!

Apparently PDFs can cause users many problems, such as:

  • Users have to have software that will open a PDF file (and many people don’t)
  • Users don’t want to download and install yet another software, just so they can read the PDF
  • PDFs often make the BACK button inoperable—and the BACK button is like a lifeline to web users
  • PDFs are hard to read online, especially when the content is presented in columns (making up-and-down scrolling necessary to flow along with the text).

PDFs are best used when visitors download them for later reference or print them out and read them like traditional print materials. (11)

Implications for Content Writers | Don’t offer your content in PDF only. Don’t surprise visitors by content that suddenly opens up in PDF. Offer content via webpages in HTML, which are quicker to load, keep the BACK button functioning, and don’t interrupt the visitor midstream with requests to download a file or messages about missing software (in this case, visitors who don’t have Adobe Reader).

Examples | Reading Rockets has an excellent website that doesn’t appear to use PDFs (at least we haven’t stumbled upon any). The pages load quickly and the content is easy to read online.

We have long provided PDFs online, so we’re a bit chagrined to read this finding about PDFs. Fortunately, most of our webpages are also available as straight HTML text online, with the option in the file of opening or downloading a PDF version of the content. We continue to offer PDF as an option to our visitors, because the contents are laid out, look nice (we think), and are suitable for easy sharing with others at conferences and meetings.

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Images Need to Deliver Content Messages or They’re Ignored

Eye-tracking studies have also shown how web visitors react to graphics such as photos or diagrams.

  • They pay close attention to images that deliver content messages, such as photos of a product or of a real person (as opposed to a stock photo of a model).  
  • They completely ignore “feel-good,” “fluff,” and non-information-carrying photos and graphics. (12)

Implications for Content Writers | While pleasing pictures can definitely spruce up our websites, they also take up valuable real-estate on the page. Use images to carry content or illustrate the points you’re making. Make sure you include <alt> tags describing the image well, so that visitors with screen readers can also benefit from the graphic.

Examples | The photo above of the F-shaped scanning pattern that web readers use is an example of a content-carrying image. Note that it has a caption. And we’ve certainly included an <alt> tag description for our visitors with screen readers.

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Visitors Like Standard Web Features

Web users rely on consistent and predictable placement of standard website features, such as the search box in the upper right hand corner. They also look for such features as “About Us” or “Contact Us,” which let them know who you are.  When they visit a link on your site, they want to see that the link then changes color (letting them know they’ve visited it). Other conventions that most visitors are used to, understand, and want to see:

  • your company’s logo in the upper left corner
  • no splash pages
  • a breadcrumb trail that shows them where they are in the site (and which allows them to get “home” with a click)
  • a site map

If these conventions are violated, hard to find, or hard to use, visitors are likely to leave the website and go elsewhere. (13)   As Jakob Nielsen says, these conventions ” increase users’ sense of mastery over the website, increase their ability to get things done, and increase their overall satisfaction with the experience.” (14)

Implications for Web Developers | Do follow the standard conventions of the current web. This helps visitors know where they are, how to move forward or back, and how to find certain kinds of information.

Examples | Look at your own website. Is there a search box where people can enter a term and run a search of your content? Is it located in the upper right-hand corner? How about the other elements mentioned above —- is there an About Us page? A page that tells folks how to contact you? Do your links change color for users once they visit that link?

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For More Detailed Info about How We Read on the Web

These findings only scratch the surface of Nielsen’s research. We highly recommend a lengthy visit to his website—with multiple returns for more information.

Of course, Jakob Nielsen isn’t the only one vigorously investigating web design and user behavior. There’s a fabulous amount of information on the web (naturally) and in print about this subject. Other sources of information include:

 Eye Tracking Update | Find the latest news from the eye-tracking world. Also find a range of products you can use to conduct your own eye-tracking studies.  http://eyetrackingupdate.com/

The Best of Eyetrack III: What We Saw When We Looked Through Their Eyes
http://www.math.unipd.it/~massimo/corsi/tecweb2/Eyetrack-III.pdf

Eyetrack III: What News Websites Look Like Through Readers’ Eyes
http://www.poynter.org/uncategorized/24963/eyetrack-iii-what-news-websites-look-like-through-readers-eyes/

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References

1 |  Nielsen, J. (1997, October 1). How users read on the web. Available online at: http://www.useit.com/alertbox/9710a.html

2 | Reichle, E.D., Rayner, K., & Pollatsek, A. (2004, March). The E-Z reader model of eye-movement control in reading: Comparisons to other models. Behavioral and Brain Sciences, 26(4), 445 – 476. DOI:10.1017/S0140525X03000104

3 | Richardson, D.C., & Spivey, M.J. (2004). Eye tracking: Research areas and applications. In G. Wnek & G. Bowlin (Eds.), Encyclopedia of biomaterials and biomedical engineering (pp. 573–582). New York: Marcel Dekker.  Available online at:  http://www.eyethink.org/resources/lab_papers/Richardson2004_Eye_tracking_C.pdf

4 | Nielsen, J. (2006, April 17).  F-shaped pattern for reading web content. Available online at: http://www.useit.com/alertbox/reading_pattern.html

5 |  Nielsen, J. (2010, March 22). Scrolling and attention. Online at: http://www.useit.com/alertbox/scrolling-attention.html

6 |  Nielsen, J. (2010, April 6). Horizontal attention leans left. Online at: http://www.useit.com/alertbox/horizontal-attention.html

7 | Nielsen, J. (2008, May 6). How little do users read? Online at: http://www.useit.com/alertbox/percent-text-read.html

8 | Ibid.

9 | Nielsen, J. (2005, March 15). Low-literacy users: Writing for a broad consumer audience. Online at:  http://www.useit.com/alertbox/20050314.html

10 |  Nielsen, J. (1997, October 1). How users read on the web. Available online at: http://www.useit.com/alertbox/9710a.html

11 | Nielsen, J. (2011, March 14). Can hated design elements be made to work. Online at: http://www.useit.com/alertbox/hated-design.html

12 | Nielsen, J. (2010, November 1). Photos as web content. Online at: http://www.useit.com/alertbox/photo-content.html

13 | Nielsen, J. (2011). Top 10 mistakes in web design. Online at: http://www.useit.com/alertbox/9605.html

14 | Nielsen, J.  (2004, September 13). The need for web design standards. Online at: http://www.useit.com/alertbox/20040913.html

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