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Readability Research

Reading HabitsDesign IssuesFontsReading Grade Level

Related Topics:
Working with the Old and Young

Reading Habits

Van Oostendorp, H., and de Mul, S. (Eds.) (1996), Cognitive aspects of   electronic text processing. Norwood, N.J.: Ablex. 1996

Easy-Read - UK Disability Rights Commission
FOCUS12/ER: How to use easy words and pictures - (May 04, 2004)
A project in the UK to create easy-to-read versions of public documents

Electronic Books: A Bad Idea - Jakob Nielsen's AlertBox (July 26, 1998)

How People Read on the Web - Jakob Nielsen's AlertBox (October 1, 1997)

Information Presentation on the Web: Unlearning 500 Years of Knowledge by Haim Levkowitz, Institute for Visualization and Perception Research, University of Mass, Lowell

LanguageHat - Aoccdrnig to a rscheearch at an Elingsh uinervtisy, it deosn't mttaer in waht oredr the ltteers in a wrod are, the olny iprmoetnt tihng is taht frist and lsat ltteer is at the rghit pclae. (September 13, 2003)

Legibility of Projected Information by Garry Musgrave, Conceptron Associates
Projected information today contains much more data content than in the past. Unlike a photographic image or a graphic, the information being presented needs to be read and understood. This significantly changes the design parameters for information display systems, and requires more care when creating the materials to be projected. (January 1999)

Low Literacy Users - Jakob Nielsen's AlertBox (March 14, 2005)

Pat Wright's research bibliography
This site has links to a large collection of research articles on "adult reading skills, especially those underlying the use of non-fiction materials encountered in every day life, whether in print or on a computer screen" at Cardiff University.

Reading Electronic Text, a report from Beta Research (complete report requires purchase)
Abstract: Reading text from electronic displays has now become a routine behavior in the workplace and elsewhere. As the computer replaces paper documents, the problems of reading text from electronic displays becomes increasingly evident. A decline in performance in display reading performance can be as high as 40 percent or more when compared to the same text read from paper. This report provides a review and analysis of recent studies of reading from electronic displays. Factors examined include not only display variables such as flicker, spatial resolution and image quality, but also the effects of autoscrolling, single and multiple word sequential presentation, color, font characteristics, and other factors. Of particular note are the effects of display presentation methods on text legibility and comprehension. Conclusions and recommendations for user interface design are provided.

Reading Habits Study - Stanford Poynter Project
A report on learn how frequent Internet news readers went about perusing news online. The study used eyetracking and other techniques. (No date provided)

Rethinking Ink: Printing the pages of an electronic book by Ivars Peterson
Report on E Ink's digital paper - From Science News, Vol. 153, No. 25, June 20, 1998, p. 396.

Study Details Online News Reading Habits
This Stanford University study looked at how people read online content, specifically news. In addition to examining news reading habits in general, investigators used eye tracking technology to study how people view Web pages. It seems the number of news junkies is dropping, but those that do continue to read news increasingly rely on online sources. News readers also read wide, but shallow - they visit many news sites, but don't go deep into any one site. As we at Netsurfer have known for years, people prefer skimming briefs before choosing to investigate items in depth. The eye-tracking analysis found that people gaze first at the text on a Web site, and that banner ads do get noticed. Online content providers will find lots of other interesting results here, too.   (Source: Netsurfer Digest)

Go to top of pageDesign Issues

Differences Between Print Design and Web Design - Jakob Nielsen's AlertBox

The Efficiency and Preference Implications of Scrolling versus Paging When Information Seeking in Long Text Passages - Clark Parsons' PhD dissertation, University of Northern Colorado, (2001)

Finding Information on the Web: Does Whitespace Matter? by M. Bernard, B. Chaparro, & R. Thomasson, Software Usability Research Laboratory, Witchita State University - "...users indicated that too little whitespace caused the layout to be too compact, and thus more difficult to read, whereas too much whitespace gave the layout an "empty" look and required extra scrolling."

Where Should You Put the Links? A Comparison of Four Locations 
by Michael Bernard, Spring Hull, & Denise Drake
This paper reports on a test of link location comparing links embedded in a document with links placed in a bulleted list at the end of the document. Conclusion of the study "[...] it is suggested that providing redundant links that are both embedded and corresponding to the document is generally superior to just embedding them within the document or listing them on the left." (2001)

Go to top of pageFonts and Typography

Schriver, Karen in Dynamics in Document Design, page 274:
"When text is set in all capital letters, reading speed is slowed about 13 to 20 percent. Reading speed is optimal when  uppercase and lowercase letters are used. When extra emphasis is needed, bold has been found to be a better cue than uppercase."

A study of fonts designed for screen display. Boyardski, D., Neuwirth, C., Forlizzi, J., & Regli, (1998).CHI 98 Conference Proceedings, 87-94.

comp.fonts FAQ

How to match type size to readership - Desktop Publishing site - Brief guidelines for selecting point size for different audiences.

Readability of Fonts in the Windows Environment Thomas S. Tullis, Jennifer L. Boynton, & Harry Hersh, CHI '95 Proceedings

So, What Size and Type of Font Should I Use on My Website? By M. Bernard & M. Mills, Software Usability Research Laboratory, Witchita State University, July 2000 - Research into readability, and preference in fonts for online reading. Arial and Times New Roman were tested at 10 and 12 points, aliased and non-aliased.

The Effect of Screen Size on Readability Using Three Different Portable Devices
This paper describes two experiments that compare the readability of text presented on three portable devices, a laptop, a Rocket Book, and a Palm Pilot. Student project at University of Maryland.

Toward a standard font size interval system by Todd Fahrner, Verso - "This document discusses the strengths and weaknesses of various deployed and recommended methods of specifying font sizes in Web documents and application interfaces, and proposes a harmonization"

TypeArt Design Tips - a collection of typographical and typesetting tips, largely oriented towards print documents.

Type Books for the well-read typographer

Understanding web typography - an introduction by Jim Byrne. "In this article I attempt to cut a swathe through the complexities of Web typography; explain the possible pitfalls; and provide some guidelines for creating accessible and easy to read web pages." Posted on

The Visualizer - a tool from IDEO for exploring color contrast in text and background colors using the web palette. 

Baecker, R., and Aaron M. (1990). Human Factors and Typography for More Readable Programs, Addision-Wesley, Reading, MA.

Go to top of pageReading Grade Level

Gunning Fog Index
A mathematical formula used to determine the grade level of reading materials.

Flesch Reading Ease / Flesch-Kincaid Grade Level
This scale is used by the Microsoft Word grammar checker

McGraw-Hill's Fry Readability Graph - Edward Fry, formerly of the Rutgers University Reading Center, created one of the most widely used, and easy-to-use readability graphs for educators.

Readabilty Calculations - Readbility Plus software with many standard readability calculations, including readability formulas for Dale-Chall, Fry, Flesch Grade Level, Flesch Reading Ease, FOG, SMOG, FORCAST, Powers-Somner-Kearl, and Spache

Readability Studio - software provides readabiltiy scores for many standard readability calculations including Dale-Chall, Spache, Laesbarhedsindex (LIX), Powers, Sumner, Kearl, Automated Readability Index, SMOG, Flesh Reading Ease, Gunning Fog, New Fog Count, Coleman-Liau, FORCAST, Flesch-Kincaid, Fry Graph,Raygor Estimate Graph, McAlpine EFLAW

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