October is ADHD Awareness Month, so it seems like a better time than any to discuss ADHD and digital accessibility. ADHD is a neurodivergent disorder that is associated with symptoms such as inattentiveness, hyperactivity and impulsiveness. While often associated with children who struggle to pay attention in school, ADHD is a lot more complex than that. 

There is also a misconception that you can “grow out of” ADHD, making it notoriously under-diagnosed in adults – particularly women. According to ADHD UK, 65% of people with childhood ADHD will carry it into adulthood, while the NHS found that 2% of adults in the UK have the condition – that’s over 1.3 million people! 

So, if you’re building a website or app, then you have to consider accessibility for everyone. If you don’t build an accessible product, your customers will simply go elsewhere. Want to know how to make sure your web presence is accessible to people with ADHD?

 In this month’s blog, I spoke to Craig Boyle, creative director at Content By The Sea, a Newcastle-based copywriting and web design agency, all about how he uses the internet and what makes him click away. 

Craig was diagnosed with ADHD at 29, after many years of mental health issues including inattentiveness, depression and anxiety. There are three subtypes of ADHD: inattentive (commonly known as ADD or ADHD-i); hyperactive and impulsive; and a combined type, which covers several or all of the aforementioned symptoms. Craig has ADD, or inattentive ADHD, which means his biggest struggles are with paying attention and not being distracted. 

I chatted to Craig about his experiences online, and he shared some dos and don’ts concerning digital accessibility for ADD and ADHD. Let’s get stuck in…

DO have clear calls to action

When a potential customer arrives on your website, is it clear what you want them to do? If you sell multiple products or services, it might be tempting to add buttons with different messages, and various means of getting in touch (contact forms, email addresses, buttons, etc.) This can be confusing for any website visitor, never mind one with ADHD. Make it clear what you want your customer to do, and use contrasting and accessible colours for buttons and menu links. 

If you do choose to have a contact form, then try to keep it simple. Craig says: “If a contact form asks for too much information, I won’t bother. For me, it’s always a battle to pay attention and stay on task, so if I am enquiring about a service, for example, a contractor for my home, I just want to give my name, phone and email address so they can get back to me.”

DON’T have intrusive ads and modals

If you have spent any time on your local news website recently, you’ll know the intrusive advertisements have become a real problem for user experience. Of course, many media companies rely on advertising revenue to operate, but if you are a business then adverts on your website might be doing more harm than good.

On the topic of intrusive advertising, Craig adds: “If I arrive on a website and there’s a pop-up modal for their newsletter or adverts flashing all over the screen, I will immediately click-off.

“Not only is it overstimulating, but it makes a website look spammy when there are adverts popping up all over the shop. When I click on a site, I have a clear intention in mind, and pop-ups or flashing ads are merely distracting me from what I came here to do.”

DON’T have videos or audio that auto-play

While less common in recent years, the nuisance of autoplaying video and audio is still prevalent online. It might seem like a good idea to have your videos auto-play, even if they don’t have sound, but have you ever thought about how distracting this could be for someone with ADHD? 

On the subject of auto-playing content, Craig said: “I am often doing several things at once, whether that’s listening to music or watching a YouTube video, and then I might visit a website to check the price of a product or make an enquiry. If audio starts playing from the website, it can be very distracting and I’ll most likely just click-off.”

DO consider your website loading speed 

This is a vital point for any web developer, as we know that your website loading speed is one of the factors Google considers when ranking your pages. But have you ever considered how loading speed impacts your web accessibility? The ideal website loading time is 1-2 seconds (you can check your loading speed using Google’s PageSpeed Insights), anything longer than 3 seconds will result in users starting to drop off – and from what we know about ADHD, particularly those with inattentive tendencies like Craig, that number could be even less.

“Creating a website that works for someone with ADHD is just about considering digital accessibility best practice and keeping things as simple as possible,” Craig concludes.

So, if you’re building a new website or looking to improve your existing web presence, these are some things to consider for digital accessibility. To learn more about digital accessibility, or get expert advice, get in touch with me today