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Antonella Pavese <[log in to unmask]>
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Antonella Pavese <[log in to unmask]>
Mon, 3 Nov 2003 18:37:56 -0800
text/plain (113 lines)
My original posting:

> My company is reviewing current typography standards for our website,
> and I was asked to review the literature on online readability and
> legibility of both narrative and tabular text (our site contains a fair
> amount of information in tabular form). I found several studies that
> examined readability and legibility of online narrative text, but
> on tabular text. Our audience is substantially older than the general
> Internet population, so I am particularly interested in studies that
> examined legibility of tabular data in older adults.

> Any suggestions?

In general, I did not get any information on the specific question I asked
(legibility of tabular data, and in particular typographic standards such
as type face and type size), but the answers I got provide interesting
information on tables in general.

In older postings I found this page of links to accessibility material
from the University of Minnesota Duluth, which has an entire section on
Tables and accessibility:

Human Factors international dedicated a few newsletters to the topics of
online reading in general and online reading for older adults: (The gradual graying of
the Internet) (Reading Text Online) (More about Fonts) (Designing for the
elderly) (Screen fonts)

but again, nothing specific on typography of tabular data

Michael Lucas suggested to use "greenbar" formatting to increase
legibility of tabular data. Greenbar formatting is when every row of
tabular data alternates background colors... usually this is more
effective when using similar colors, such as white and pastel green.  A
hard-coded example can be seen here:

But if the data changes often, hard-coding is not an option. I have a
piece of JavaScript that can be bolted on to any page to "greenbar" one or
more tables on a page.

Chris MacGregor sent a link to an article he wrote about displaying
tabular data on the web. Chris adds: "There's no studies that back up my
information, just good knowledge of legibility from years of doing
typography for the web and in print."

Here is the link to Chris article:

Ashley Donaldson, from the UTEST list provided several great links on
readability and legibility.

For example, the page on readability put together by the usability SIG of
the Society for Technical Communication:
which offers a lot of great research and resources on readability, but
nothing specifically on typography on tables.

Ashley also mention the article by Bernard et al:
Michael Bernard , Chia Hui Liao , Melissa Mills, The effects of font type
and size on the
legibility and reading time of online text by older adults, CHI '01
extended abstracts on
Human factors in computer systems, March 31-April 05, 2001, Seattle,

...and the online version of the same article:

...links on typography from accessibility specialists:

Finally, Ashley pointed out that, in presenting tabular data, we may wish
to consider colour and contrast  deficiencies:

...and follow some sound design principles such as those prescribed by
Edward R Tufte.

A lot of thanks to those who took the time to provide their suggestions.
Antonella Pavese

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