Primary encoding can be defined as the “astylistic” presentation of
information via a medium of communication such as speech, text, and hand
gestures. Secondary encoding is defined as a presentation style that applies
to or accompanies primary encoding and provides additional information. Put
in another way, primary encoding can be the "what" is said and secondary
encoding can be "how" it is said.
Primary encoding is presented at face value and secondary encoding
complements it with additional meaning. For example, you say the words, "I
am very interested in this job" (primary) during an interview but you appear
tired and uninterested (secondary) in what the interviewer is saying. From
your body language, the interviewer will think you are not interested. The
words you say may not be as important as how you say them.
Watch the following videos on the importance of body language and
non-verbal communication, which contains secondary encoded information.
This ADE will provide you with an overview of a few secondary encodings
and what happens when a person cannot detect it. It will focus on the use
of colour, tone, and culture.
Website and application developers often use colours to enhance the
appearance of their product and to add emphasis to certain text (such
as using red text to indicate danger). However, someone with colour
blindness may not be able to detect the colours, and will not know that
the text is important. The following activity will illustrate this.
What to do:
- Open a new web browswer window and go to this
colour filter website.
Enter the URL:
- Pick the fourth color filter: "grayscale/achromatopsia (quick check
for all forms of colorblindness)".
- Can you determine which words are red? If so, what are they?
- On the right hand side, there is a box that contains various filter
options. Under "Color Blindness", choose the "Tritan" filter.
- Which words are written in red?
- Under "Color Blindness", choose the "Protan" filter.
- Which words are written in blue?
- Check your answer by choosing the "Normal" filter (under "Color
Blindness"). Was your list of blue words correct? If your list was
incorrect, what do you think is the cause of the error?
- As a developer, how would you prevent the problems that you
experienced in this activity from occurring?
The way we speak can convey information about ourselves, beyond the
spoken words The tone of voice we use with the words convey the the meaning
we intended as well as our emotions. Without the tone, as is often the case
with text, it can be difficult to determine the meaning. The first and
second activities will illustrate this.
Tone is sometimes also used to alert a user of an event. This is called
an earcon. However, the user may not be able to detect it due to a hearing
disability. The earcon may use a tone that is outside the range of hearing.
The third activity will illustrate this.
What to do:
- Go to the Lack of Tone
website and complete the activity.
- How many of the emotions/meanings did you get correct?
- What techniques do you use to indicate your emotions/meanings
when you are chatting with friends online?
- How do you express the following?
- Do your friends express it the same way as you? If not, how does
- What are some problems with using emoticons and acronyms?
What to hand in:
In addition to the questions asked throughout this activity, submit the
- What did you learn from this ADE?
- What will you do differently now that you have learned it?
- Should secondary encoding be used on Web content? If so, how should
it be used? If not, why not?
- Besides those presented in this ADE, what are some other solutions
that can help resolve the problems with secondary encoding?
- What were your expectations of this ADE?
- Did this ADE meet your expectations? Provide a rating between 1 and
7, where 1 means not at all, 4 means somewhat, and 7 means
absolutely. Please explain your choice.
- Did you feel that the video(s) for this ADE was appropriate? Why or
why not? Provide a rating between 1 and 7, where 1 means not at
all, 4 means somewhat, and 7 means absolutely. Please explain your
- Do you have any suggestions for other possible videos?
- Did you feel that the questions above got you to think about the
real and serious issues regarding this ADE? Provide a rating
between 1 and 7, where 1 means not at all, 4 means somewhat, and
7 means absolutely. Please explain your choice.
- If you have any suggestions on how to improve this ADE, please
include it here.
Additional Information and Tools:
- The following
website provides some guidelines regarding how to choose the
Vischeck has an online tool to check images for the 3 main
- Visolve is an
assistive technology that converts the colours on the screen into ones
the viewer can see.
- This online tool can be
used to ensure your webpage is colour friendly. Try it on the
following URL: http://home.wanadoo.nl/paulschils/05.03.html
provides a good summarization of emoticons, where they came from, and
what they mean.
website suggests ways to convey emotions and tones.
website describes the use of abbreviations and tags.