RE: Readability - CD/web site

Subject: RE: Readability - CD/web site
From: "Blount, Patricia A" <Patricia -dot- Blount -at- ca -dot- com>
To: <techwr-l -at- lists -dot- techwr-l -dot- com>
Date: Thu, 4 May 2006 09:15:45 -0400


I couldn't help but laugh when I read this... many, many years ago when
I was working for Entenmann's, the company had replaced all the loud,
clacking typewriters with IBM PCs and a word processing program called
MultiMate. This was well before the days of WYSIWYG, the mouse, Windows,
and even the internet.

MultiMate was a decent word processor, once you memorized all your
keyboard combinations. I had to stick labels on every key on my keyboard
to keep 'em all straight. If you wanted to underline something, you had
to mark the start and end points of the section with codes.

Anyhow, the one thing that made me absolutely insane was that MultiMate
displayed light text on a dark background. I don't remember if it was
black and white or green and white, all I remember is the pain.

I went through every paragraph in the user manual. There was no website
back then, so I called the 800 line and badgered those poor folks until
finally, someone, somewhere could recall the command for flipping the
display to a light background with dark text. It was actually fairly
simple, but since this was my first experience with a computer, I hadn't
a clue where to even find such a command.

Finally, I figured out how to do it and within days, word had spread to
all the MultiMate users on my floor that I'd found a way to stop
eyestrain. I became so busy trying to explain to everyone how to change
their displays that I ultimately had to type up the directions and
distribute them.

This single event was my foray into technical writing. It happened in
1986 or maybe '87...

Thanks for bringing back memories!


Julie wrote:
"My team is developing a marketing CD for our retail computer system.
We're in the initial stages of developing the layout for the main
navigation/home page. So far, we've developed 2 different layouts. One
has a white background, black text, navigation buttons with a red border
at the top, a few images & the very top of the page has the company &
computer system logos with a black background behind it. The other
layout has a black background, white text, the same company & computer
system logos with a black background & a few images. It might just be
my eyesight, but it's more challenging for me to read the white text on
a black background than black text on a white background (or maybe this
is just what my eyes are used to).

Do you know of any readability studies available on the web that
reference what background color/font color/font size & type is easiest
to read on a CD or web site. Our long term goal is to include a good
deal of this content on our intranet site, so it would be helpful if the
CD & web site had a similar layout. I'm researching this on Google, but
I thought I'd check here too. I'm guessing I could find something on
Jakob Nielsen's site."

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