Saturday, May 19, 2007

The Effects of Line Length on Reading Online News

A scholarly paper on the effects of website line length on readability ...

The amount of text-based information available online is steadily increasing. Universities are offering more online classes; publishers are releasing more online books and journals; and consumers are gathering online news, weather, and product information daily. Therefore, the examination of the factors that influence the readability of online text is very important. In a recent survey, Shaikh and Chaparro (2004) evaluated the reading habits of Internet users across five document types (journal articles, news, newsletters, literature, and product information) and found that users preferred to read journal articles in printed form, but other documents such as online news, newsletters, and product reviews in online formats.

Research has shown that many aspects of physical layout of online text impact reading performance and satisfaction; Dyson (2004) gives an excellent review. One such factor that has been studied is line length, or the number of characters presented per line of text. Research investigating line length for online text has been inconclusive. Several studies found that longer line lengths (80-100 cpl) were read faster than short line lengths (Duchnicky and Kolers, 1983; Dyson and Kipping, 1998). Contrary to these findings, other research suggests the use of shorter line lengths. Dyson and Haselgrove (2001) found that 55 characters per line were read faster than either 100 cpl or 25 cpl conditions. Similarly, a line length of 45-60 characters was recommended by Grabinger and Osman-Jouchoux (1996) based on user preferences. Bernard, Fernandez, Hull, and Chaparro (2003) found that adults preferred medium line length (76 cpl) and children preferred shorter line lengths (45 cpl) when compared to 132 characters per line.

Shaikh and Chaparro (2004) found that 62% of respondents preferred to read news onscreen rather than on paper. The goal of this study was to investigate the effects of line length on reading performance of online news articles. This study investigated the effects of four line lengths (35, 55, 75, and 95 cpl) on reading speed, comprehension, and satisfaction.

Reading Speed Reading time was converted to words per minute. Results from a one-way within subjects ANOVA showed that there was a significant main effect of line length on reading speed, F(3, 57) = 3.45, p = .02, η = .15. The 95 cpl (M = 178.82, SD = 41.83) articles were read significantly faster than any of the other line lengths (35 cpl M = 167.21, SD = 33.66; 55 cpl M = 167.38, SD = 33.96 ; 75 cpl M = 169.44, SD = 33.48) (Figure 1)."    (Continued via    [Usability Resources]

The effect of line length on reading speed. - Usability, User Interface Design

The effect of line length on reading speed.


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