Involving People with Limited Literacy Skills in Co-Creation of Health Information: Notes from the Field

Sandy Williams Hilfiker, MA | Salon 2

Principal, Director of User-Centered Design, CommunicateHealth, Inc.



Some of us eat and sleep with our smartphones. But there are plenty of people for whom technology is stressful and overwhelming. These are often the folks who need access to information and services the most—including older adults, people with limited literacy skills and people who are sick.

How can we make sure new health information technologies are understandable and accessible to all users, including those with literacy or technology challenges? We’re so glad you asked. The answer: implement a thoughtful user-centered design process. Many of the common barriers to reaching and engaging people with limited literacy skills (such as the use of complex information and navigation or unfamiliar tools and technology) can be alleviated by including people with limited literacy skills as co-creators of interactive health tools and websites.

Reaching out and receiving meaningful feedback from these audiences can be challenging and requires special considerations. Based on experience conducting usability research with hundreds of participants with limited literacy skills and limited health literacy skills, we will share lessons learned and practical tips for implementing the user-centered design process to develop easy-to-use and accessible digital health information and tools.

Specifically, the presentation will detail proven strategies for recruiting participants with limited literacy skills, developing questions and prompts in plain language, and moderating testing sessions. We will discuss user-centered design methods that are particularly effective in gaining insights from participants with limited literacy skills, including collaging, card sorting and remote usability testing. We will also talk about how to choose the right software and testing environment.


Learning objective:

  • Identify three user-centered design methods to engage participants with limited literacy skills



Building a common foundation