How to make the Internet pages more readable unveiled by a study in collaboration with UniSR

10 September 2019

A study by the University of Trento in collaboration with the Vita-Salute San Raffaele University, published in the journal Scientific Reports (of the Nature group), shows how some elements on a web page can make the difference and lists the useful elements to be read by everyone, even from people with dyslexia.

According to the Global Digital Report 2019, there are now over 1.7 billion Internet sites. The Internet pages available on the web are very different from one another: the colors of the writings and of the background, the size and type of font, the layout or the amount of text used. Such great flexibility of appearance does not always help the user to understand the information, in addition to the fact that reading on a monitor or on a phone can be harder than reading on paper.

How to make web pages more readable? How to adapt the look to different categories of users by facilitating access, for example to people with dyslexia?

A study by the University of Trento, carried out in collaboration with UniSR, identified some elements that improve readability:

  • Character size - the greater the character, the more legible the text is.
  •  Alignment of the text on the left (not centered or justified)
  •  Use of headings or titles that give an indication of the content of the paragraph
  •  Line spacing - the larger the line spacing, the more the text is readable.

The research group, coordinated by Dr. Michele Scaltritti of the Department of Psychology and Cognitive Sciences of the University of Trento and by Dr. Simone Sulpizio, UniSR researcher at the Faculty of Psychology and Center of Neurolinguistics and Psycholinguistics, carried out a series of experiments involving about 80 participants, adults and children of middle schools. Among them, both typical readers and readers with dyslexia. Participants were asked to read some internet pages selected from the web, heterogeneous in appearance and typographical features. Their eye movements were recorded during reading.

The results of this analysis show that different typographic characteristics influence the readability of the texts. Aligning the text on the left, using headers or using a larger font are elements that can help all types of readers. Still other elements - such as the type of font used or the use of highlights such as bold or italics - do not appear to have any impact on the readability of the texts.

In general, the study indicates that the simple manipulation of some features of the appearance of the internet pages - a simple and economic operation - can be sufficient to improve the readability of the texts. An improvement that is often found in different types of readers: more or less experienced, typical or with dyslexia.

Dr. Sulpizio concludes:

"This is why the application of these improvements can contribute to the creation of more inclusive texts, accessible to all users. The recommendations contained in the study are particularly useful to those who fill out the guidelines for the accessibility of web content and to those who produce digital texts”.

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