Re: Online fonts and sizes -- new usability study

Subject: Re: Online fonts and sizes -- new usability study
From: kcronin -at- daleen -dot- com
To: "TECHWR-L" <techwr-l -at- lists -dot- raycomm -dot- com>
Date: Wed, 23 Jan 2002 11:52:38 -0700

In response to Dick and Bruce:

I don't know - maybe I was raised thinking the Pepsi Challenge was a
pretty good testing technique: let people try various options and see
which they like best. Makes sense to my tiny mind.

While you both raise very valid points, I have to say that I've seen
EXTREMELY thorough and scientific arguments for serif fonts being the most
readable. Then I've seen equally compelling data supporting the opposite
stance. You can build up tons of evidence supporting *any* point of view,
it seems. After a while (to me at least) it starts to be like arguing that
blue is better than red. It's opinion. Very scholarly and well-documented,
but opinion nonetheless.

One of the main reasons I give this survey any weight at all is the fact
that it concerns ONLINE display of text. Not print. (Regarding print, I
think they've figured out what works best over the last few hundred years
- I don't have much problem reading text from any major hardcopy
publishers.)

There's a key difference with online text: the creators of documents
relinquish control to their users. Virtually all software allows you a
variety of ways to view text, from Word to Frame to the various Web
browsers out there. I don't know how you'd ever measure all the variables,
and if you did, so what? If YOUR readers do not set up their screen the
same way you do, your opinions and rules are for naught.

I guess that's why the simplicity of this test appealed to me. Sit a bunch
of people down at the same machine, have them read the same docs in
different fonts and sizes, measure how fast they read them, and ask them
which they think is prettier. Gives me a ballpark idea of what fonts I
should try using on my online docs. Cool.

Yes, those highly subjective and poorly thought out responses will come
from average untrained amateurs. In my case (and I'd think many others),
that's MY target audience. I have yet to publish a piece geared
specifically at expert typographers. I guess if I ever did, they probably
won't like my work, based on your comments. Oh well.

-Keith Cronin
______________________________________________

A font without serifs is like a cheeseburger with no onions. I think.

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