Re: Readability studies on fonts--serif and sans serif

Subject: Re: Readability studies on fonts--serif and sans serif
From: Dick Margulis <margulis -at- fiam -dot- net>
Date: Sat, 04 Mar 2000 07:12:05 -0500



Jennifer Mueller wrote:
>
> In her book "The Non-Designer's Web Book", Robin
> Williams differentiates between readability and
> legibility.
>
> She says that readability refers to how easy it is to
> read a lot of text, and that serif fonts are more
> readable for print and lengthy web pages.
>
> She says the legibility refers to how easy it is to
> recognize short bursts of text, such as headlines,
> signs, buttons, etc, and says that in print and on
> screen, sans serif fonts are more legible.
>


And Uncle Dick replies:

That would be one of the rules of thumb of questionable provenance (and
in this case questionable sense) that I referred to yesterday.

In the hands of a skilled designer, serif fonts and sans serif fonts are
equally legible and equally readable on paper. In the hands of an
unskilled user, they can be equally illegible and unreadable. On a
low-resolution device like a monitor, serifs tend to break up at small
text sizes, resulting in poor legibility; at larger sizes, though, serif
fonts can be put to good use. So, if anything, Williams's rule is either
upside-down, misquoted, or taken out of context.

Further, the points made yesterday remain true: an advantage of the Web
is that the user is free to choose browser settings consonant with the
user's visual acuity. Subverting this freedom by too closely specifying
font choices works against usability.




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