This study examines wether a well designed text aids pupils or students to read and understand the text and increase or ease the information intake.
The study showed that a well designed text led to 18.8 % increase in reading speed, a 13.5 % increase in remembered information as well as an 32.1 % increase in testing time. The biggest difference however was the time needed to retrieve information from the text with a 36.9 % difference between a well designed text and a general teacher designed text.
The study was conducted in several classrooms of a vocational school in Austria. Given the age bracket which is centered roughly around 17 and 18 year old students, the results could have a relevance for adult students as well.
This study takes a look at how a reader-friendly-design of texts affects learning.
In every learning environment written texts are a central part of the learning routine. As such it is of interest to establish a way in which the students can take the most from a text presented in written form. The aim of this study is to establish if a reader friendly design has an impact on learning as well as the understanding of a given text.
This study was conducted at a school environment where subtle typographical nuances are irrelevant due to a lack of understanding on part of the teaching staff as well as lack of software which would make such distinctions possible in everyday work. Because of this some things had to be simplified to accommodate the reality of the workplace of teachers.
This study is aimed to offer a guideline on how a text should be designed to enhance the learning effect and to offer the easiest and most efficient design for a student to work with.
It will show that a reader-friendly design is enhancing the learning as well as the efficiency of the progress.
The study was conducted in 2018 and 2019 at a vocational school in Vorarlberg / Austria. The system of apprenticeship in Austria is a two-folded system. The apprentices work at a company four days a week. There they receive the vocational training in an everyday working environment. Alongside this workplace education the apprentice is obliged to attend a vocational school one (in some cases two) day a week. The vocational school covers the theoretical aspects of the occupation and is usually organized in a two or three part system: general and mercantile knowledge, theoretical knowledge and practical application. The apprentices receive grades and a yearly school report. The duration of most apprenticeships is three years. An apprenticeship is ended by passing an exam conducted by the Austrian Federal Economic Chamber.
The study incorporated three vocations:
- Administrative and office clerks
Legibility is defined as the ease of recognition of each letter of a text. The choice of font, paper colour, size, kerning etc. all are influencing legibility. As legibility is partly responsible for the ease of reading a text, certain elements are incorporated in this study. The term readability thus includes - in this study - also elements of legibility.
Readability in this study is defined as the ease of comprehension of a text. As such it is the ease of deciphering, reading and realization of a text in regards to the font, height, spacing and other design elements. Traditionally all this is encompassed by readability and legibility in typography. In this study this term is used in this encompassing sense, including all elements of the design of a text. The content and phrasing is not part of this study.
The author is fully aware that the way a text is phrased has a big influence on the ease of understanding a text. Reader-friendly phrasing is a separate field and needs to be studied on its own. The combinatorial effects would certainly be significant. This, however, is not part of this study.
There have been many studies about readability. From a purely technical viewpoint Willberg notes the following criteria:
- clear and unambiguous letter forms which lead to
- clear and unambiguous word forms
- aiding the eye to remain on the line
- kerning (the distance between letters) should be carefully considered
- correct use of typographic attributes and/or highlighting
- consciously designing the empty parts of the page • the space between the words has to be smaller than the space between the lines
How typography as well as language usage should be adjusted depends on the type of reading that is used.
Willberg and Forssman distinguish between the following types (translation by the author) lineares Lesen - linear reading informierendes Lesen - reading to inform, informative reading konsultierendes Lesen - reading to consult, consulting reading selektierendes Lesen - selective reading
Their other differentiations are of no relevance to this study. Each of these reading types call for different typographical designs. In this study the text will be read first in linear reading and after that again in a consulting reading. The students will read the text (linear reading) to understand the content. After that they read it again to help answer the questions (reading to consult).
The definition of reader-friendly design
There doesn’t seem to be a clear and accepted definition of a reader-friendly design. Different authors argue for different design details. For this study the included design requirements are either agreed upon by most experts or that are falling in line with what is considered to be good typography. These design requirements are as follows:
The length of the individual line should not exceed 60 characters or 130 mm.
Distance of Lines
The distance between the lines should be greater the longer the line is. Usually 1.2 line spacing has been established as a good rule. As most word processing software uses increments of lines, this is what is used here.
There is an ongoing discussion wether serif fonts or grotesque fonts (without serifs) are easier to read. Up until now there seems to be no consensus. This study follows the standard advice that serif fonts are easier to read than grotesque because the serifs aids the eye in staying on the line. Even modern studies seem to support this view. So serif fonts, or Antiqua fonts are to be preferred.
Given the right font type a font size of10 to 12 pt. is to be preferred. In this study 12 pt. is preferred to minimize any problems in regards to light or visibility.
A left alignment with a ragged margin is usually the easiest to read. A forced block is not helpful as the distance between the words and sometimes the letters are forced and uneven.
The best would be a block that allows some minor edge but this can only be done with professional software. As this is not being used by teachers it can not be part of the setup.
Hyphenation - Syllabification
In a reader-friendly design hyphenations should be avoided. Words should not be separated.
 1 Willberg 2001, 2005
 Willberg, 2001
 Tschichold, 2001; Kunz, 1950
 van Rossum, 1998