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Cognitive Accessibility Design Pattern: Support Simplification

User Need

I need less content without extra options and features as I cannot function at all when there is too much cognitive overload.

What to Do

Support simplification of your content. Often this includes allowing the user to:

  • Remove or hide features that most users do not use or that are not essential.
  • Get less text or more simple text.
  • Select the content format or version that is easiest for them to understand, or
  • Find the extra features when wanted.

How it Helps

A user who has difficulty reading or using web content can be easily overwhelmed with too much information on a web page. They need to simplify the page to include the critical information that they need and not spend all their energy reading and understanding other content and features. This is also true for users who are easily distracted.

For example, an email program has lots of features and formatting options when drafting an email. This makes it too complex for a lot of people. With personalization the user can have a simple option with only send and cancel options. There is a “to” and subject line but no cc or bcc options. In this setting there is a clear heading (write an email) and they have icons that the user understands.

More Details

Note that:

  • Typically, a simple application has 3 to 6 functions.
  • Make sure it is easy to get back to the full featured version.
  • You can meet this design pattern by:
    • supporting simplified versions from the browser,
    • using of data-simplification on regions and controls,
    • using other attributes in personalization semantics (see [[personalization-semantics-1.0]]),
    • adding a simplification toolbar, or
    • providing an alternative version.

Getting Started

Add data-simplification="critical" on content that is in any critical user testing paths.



  1. A simplified “reading” view that is available and easy to close.
  2. Applications that have 3 large features. Other features are in the footer or under a “more” option.
  3. A simplified version of the application is available.


  1. Simplified modes have unnecessary extra content or are not supported.
  2. Applications with lots of features and cannot be simplified. For example:
    • A busy email program has many control bars and features such as tagging, group tagging, start a new thread, etc. There is no easy way to simplify the page.

User Stories and Personas

User Story



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