Legibility and readability

Reading a text from the World Wide Web has become usual in our culture. We are experiencing a shifting of paradigms: from the printed paper to the computer screen (or from atoms to bits). This transition is modifying how we read and understand a text. Considering that digital media has a fastest pace for performing actions, as reading for example, we could informally state that most users instead of ‘reading’, ‘scan’ the pages: the reading speed is about a 30% slower, the comprehension and understanding of the text goes down to a 50%.

Legibility & Readability (on the World Wide Web)

Since 1999 –when we were invited to give a workshop in the typography and design conference tpG Buenos Aires– we have been researching on the topic of legibility on the computer screen, mainly focused on the browser’s window.

To develop this idea and following some experiments conducted on the Software Usability Research Lab of the Wichita University (USA), we designed a system that consists of a dynamic website that pools data from a relational DB and presents the user with different reading possibilities. In order to avoid repetition to the minimum expression we used a Latin Square design.

We tested four different axes:

  • font family
  • font size and leading
  • line length
  • colour

And we consider two different pathways to test results:

  • objective (the time spent reading and the basic comprehension)
  • subjective (questions regarding perceived legibility, elegance, personality, comfort, typographic colour, etc.)

We did two iterations of this experiment: the first one in the workshop afore mentioned and the second one in collaboration with the Typography II Course leaded by Prof. Carlos Venancio. The paper we are publishing here relates the results of this second iteration.

The results of this research are non conclusive and of course it is not finish. But nevertheless, we are offering it here to spread the word.