Friday, June 12, 2009

A Poll

Natalie has an interesting post on what makes blogs easy to read: not the content but how it is presented. I thought her points were very good but I was surprised to see that she favours serif fonts since I was under the impression that sans serif are easier to read online. So I thought I'd ask you what you think.

Which of the following paragraphs do you find physically easier to read (remember, we're not talking content here):

a) Gregory walked slowly past Miss Avernes' house hoping to see her but the windows stared back at him blankly. He didn't know what to do. He'd always had a soft spot for her and now he'd heard that she was moving away. Should he say something to her or should he do as he'd always done and simply smile and pass on?

b) He raised himself onto his toes to look over the garden fence as he continued to walk past. It gave him a strange bouncing gait and he hoped no one was watching. What he really wanted to do was to put his eye to a knot hole in the fence but that would look really odd if he was caught. Bouncing along, peering into her garden, he almost crashed into her.

c)"Mr Gordon, you nearly knocked me over!" Miss Avernes was laughing as she spoke and Gregory felt his face warming.

"Miss Avernes-" His voice squeaked so he coughed and tried again. "So nice to see you, Miss Avernes, and isn't it a lovely day again today?"


Or is there another font d) that you prefer? If so, could you say so in the comments.

The poll is in the sidebar and will be there until 19th June. I hope you'll vote on it and let me know in the comments what your reading preferences are.

9 COMMENTS:

Bevie said...

I always thought non-serif fonts are easier to read.

Now, what about Gregory and Miss Avernes?

sylvia said...

The problem is that the difference in legibility is too small for us to be really consciously aware. There's a LOT of conflicting data in terms of legibility online (black on white vs white on black is another bugbear. I can show you conclusive tests showing whichever one you prefer is more difficult to read). Although it's easy to point at something as "difficult to read" (handwritten blogs come to mind :D) once it's readable a personal preference kicks in that the person isn't actually aware of.

There has been some great research regarding useability and design for software interfaces (sponsored by corporates so cost not an issue) which I believe equally applies to Web pages (as they are really just another interface on a computer and becoming pretty interactive in general) but websites still seem to be treated differently, possibly because they are so much text heavier.

Robin S. said...

I was fine with A or B - didn't enjoy reading C - it reminds me of a test paper.

Whirlochre said...

This is all very timely as a numbver of people have commented recently on the (un)readability of my blog — mainly due to their browswers blocking my background and reducing the colour scheme to white-on-white, it has to be said.

However, generally I favour serif fonts and I'd go for (a) every time here. (c) looks a little courieresque — and I hate courier. That said, this is a black-on-white blog, and with a darker background, the sans serif fonts tend to be more readable.

fairyhedgehog said...

Bevie: Me too. Although I prefer serif fonts for printed matter.

Sylvia: It's odd that handwritten blogs are the hardest to read but also the most fun.

Robin: C is Courier and I'll be happy if no one votes for it!

Whirl: Your website is easier to read in white but it looks much less dramatic. I usually read it in my Google reader so I only see it when I comment.

Kevin Musgrove said...

On screen I generally prefer sans-serif fonts, so long as they're not too blocky (Verdana is easier on the eye than Arial or Helvetica). On-screen paragraphs tend to be short, so sans-serif's tendency to create rivers of white space doesn't get too intrusive.

Most decent serif fonts are too finely-cut to be properly defined on screen.

SillyBoy said...

Where computer type is pixellated in the old-fashioned way, without fancy anti-aliasing tricks, serifs tend to lose a lot of their subtlety and just make the type look too busy, which is why sans-serif fonts have long been recommended for on-screen use. But now that ClearType and other such font-smoothing tricks are catching on, serif fonts can be rendered more accurately, and regain some of the readability they've always had on paper.

That said, actual results vary. While Georgia looks nice enough on an up-to-date Linux or a Mac, it's still a bit funny-looking in Windows XP, so I have to give Verdana my vote.

Courier, meanwhile, is just nasty, and should never be used for anything.

Sarah Laurenson said...

The serif font seemed to flow better, but the individual words were a bit of a strain with my need for glasses. The sans-serif font was easier to read the individual words, but the flow suffered a bit.

The last one seemed to just be spread out more and too light. I prefer a heavier font.

If you took the serif font and made the space between words a little bigger, I think that would be ideal for me. Or even the sans-serif and made the space between words a little smaller. But who knows. I personally love Arial (sans-serif), but am using TNR (serif) almost exculsively these days.

fairyhedgehog said...

Kevin: That's what I've tended to think about serif versus non-serif.

SillyBoy: It seems like serif fonts are getting better on screen as the technology improves.

Sarah: It sounds like an in-between font would suit you best.

It seems like what I really need is an easy way for people to adjust the font to suit themselves without needing to have any computer knowledge. Sadly, my computer knowledge isn't up to doing that!

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