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Some Facts About Reading


Factors such as font size and screen resolution slow reading by about 25 ... Headlines should be straightforward, not cryptic, funny, or cute. ... – PowerPoint PPT presentation

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Title: Some Facts About Reading

Some Facts About Reading
  • Americans average reading level 8th-9th grade.
  • 1 in 5 people read at 5th grade or below.
  • Almost 2 in 5 older (65) Americans and inner
    city minorities read at 5th grade level or
  • Roughly 1/2 of students learn to read with
    relative ease.
  • As many as 1 in 5 students will manifest a
    significant reading disability.
  • Today, 10 million students are classified as poor
  • 88 of students who are poor readers at the end
    of 1st grade will display similar difficulties at
    the end of 4th grade.

  • Source

Still more facts about reading.
  • In 1998, only 41 of 12th graders read at a
    proficient or advanced level. (Proficient is
    defined as mastery of challenging subject matter
    for grade level.)
  • The rest read at a basic level or below. (Basic
    is defined as partial mastery of skills at grade
  • The percentage of children who read well has not
    improved substantially in more than 25 years.
  • Source

One last fact about reading
  • Most people read at about a 65 comprehension
  • Source

So whats the point?
  • Many people do not read willingly or well, so
    its important to make the task of reading as
    easy as possible.

The Web further complicates reading.
  • Factors such as font size and screen resolution
    slow reading by about 25.
  • Poor design decisions, such as background images
    or font color can make reading on the Web more
    fatiguing. http//
  • Features such as unnecessary animations can
    interfere with reading.

The First Law of Writing for the Web
  • If you dont write for the reader,
  • the reader wont read.

The Second Law of Writing for the Web
  • Text and graphics must work together so that the
    readers task is simplified.

Why do people go to the Web?
  • Overwhelmingly, people go to the Web
  • to find useful information
  • as quickly as possible.
  • Source

How people read on the Web
  • They dont actually read, they scan (glance from
    point to point, often quickly searching for a
    particular item). Only 16 read word by word 79
  • Readability studies have shown that a sample Web
    site scored 47higher in measured usability when
    it was scannable.

The difference between reading and scanning
  • Reading
  • Progression is word by word across the page and
  • Meaning is gathered from the syntax (the way
    words are put together to form phrases or
    clauses) and the ongoing process of reading each
  • Key information is not visually called out.
  • Scanning
  • Progression is rapid and not in order around the
    page as user looks for specific facts or key
    words and phrases.
  • Meaning clusters around key words and phrases as
    the user finds them. There may not be an ongoing
    process of good meaning-making.
  • Key information is visually called out.

  • Readable text. With the exception of the
    paragraph breaks, nothing appears in the text
    that is likely to distract the eye from its
    left-to-right, top-to-bottom progress.
  • If you wanted to make this text scannable, how
    would you do it?

  • Scannable text.
  • Oversized headings alert the reader to the
    topic of each paragraph.

  • Scannable text.
  • Colored headings and bullets distract the
    eye from its left-to-right, top-to-bottom
    progress and visually organize the material.
  • Numbers imply hierarchy.
  • Bullets No order of
  • importance implied.

  • Scannable text.
  • The newspaper page structure is an
    excellent aid to scanning.

ScanningScannable text calls attention to key
information through the use of
  • Text chunking
  • Headings
  • Bold text
  • Bulleted/numbered lists
  • Captions
  • Large type
  • Highlighted text
  • Graphics
  • Topic Sentences
  • Tables of Contents

When highlighting, keep in mind
  • Dont over highlight--it loses its effectiveness.
  • Dont highlight overly long phrases. A scanning
    eye can only pick up 2-3 words at a glance.

With lists, keep in mind
  • Lists slow down the scanning eye and draw
    attention to important points.
  • Numbering a list suggests order of importance.
  • Limit the number of items in a list to no more
    than 9. Readers can hold 5-9 items in their minds
    at one time.
  • Dont require users to click through level after
    level of lists. Below the 2nd level, information
    should be available.
  • Alphabetizing a list helps a reader find the
    topic more easily.

With headlines, keep in mind
  • Headlines should be straightforward, not cryptic,
    funny, or cute.
  • Headlines that summarize the copy significantly
    help readers scan.

Exercise One
  • Edit the sample of readable text to make it
    more scannable.

What else do readers want?
  • Concise copy. Users dont like long, scrolling
    pages they prefer short, to-the-point text. Less
    copy means less information to process, easing
    their cognitive load.
  • Source

What does concise mean?
  • Free from elaboration and superfluous detail.
  • Concise is relative to audience however, keep
    in mind that Web users dislike scrolling on
    initial pages in a site. They expect denser
    information deeper in the sites structure.

Failure of Leadership Certain principles and
freedoms are guaranteed by our Constitution. Yet,
without enforcement, the Constitution is just a
piece of paper. Where does one turn if national
leaders fail to uphold these fundamental rights?
President Roosevelt ignored reports from Naval
Intelligence, the FBI and other official sources
that there was no need for either mass removal or
incarceration of people of Japanese ancestry.
According to then FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover, "
... the decision to evacuate was ... based
primarily on public and political pressures
rather than factual data."1 Perhaps Roosevelt
was influenced by anti-Japanese sentiments or
misled by key advisors. Perhaps it was because
there was no strong opposition to the
incarceration on the West Coast. In any case,
President Roosevelt encountered little resistance
when he chose to violate the civil rights of a
small, easily identifiable and politically
powerless minority group rather than go against
the rising tide of hostility. The U.S. Supreme
Court upheld Roosevelt's decision. In sharp
contrast to the mainland, the military leadership
in Hawaii discouraged public hysteria and there
was no mass incarceration on the islands. 1943
U.S. War Relocation Authority newsreel titled
"Japanese Relocation."
  • Users will read longer copy however, they want
    to make the choice to do so. You can help them
    choose to read by using anchor pages. On a page
    containing a lot of copy, put a list of linked
    headings at the top of the page that will jump
    the reader to places lower on the page. This
    allows the reader to scan the list to see if the
    page contains relevant material they want to read.

Inverted pyramidBegin with the conclusion,
follow with supporting information, end with
detailed background.
  • Headline states the conclusion
  • Sub-head provides supporting info
  • Summary of story adds more detail

Can copy be too brief?
  • You still need to satisfy a readers
    informational needs and give what you promised.
  • Concise does not always require cutting. Use
    short paragraphs (7 lines or less), narrower
    columns (no more than 5 inches), and line lengths
    of 15 words or less. Frequent subheads help also.

Exercise Two
  • Rewrite the copy to make it more concise.

Readers also want objectivity.
  • Users dont like anything that seems like
    marketing fluff or overly hyped language.
  • If text seems too over-the-top, readers will
    begin to call its validity into question. This
    creates a distraction that increases their
    cognitive load.

How to add objectivity.
  • Include links to other sites that contain
    supporting information.
  • Create a page design that reflects the content
    and is sophisticated without being slick.
  • Avoid using too many adjectives and adverbs to
    describe ideas. They make sentences too wordy and
    feel more like a sell job than serious
  • Exclude mission statements, slogans and other
    jargon laden language.

Exercise Three
  • Rewrite the copy to make it more objective.

Conversational copy
  • Readers want conversational or informal copy.
    They can read it faster, thereby reducing their
    cognitive load.
  • Sounds like normal speech patterns--not too
    elementary, not too rhetorical. Read your copy
    out loud to test its naturalness.

Exercise Four
  • Rewrite the copy to make it more conversational.

People want to know where they are and where they
can go.
  • Copy can aid navigation.
  • Embedded links (links that occur in the midst of
    a block of text) should be the primary links you
    want readers to see. They will use them as a
    guide for scanning, so only the most important
    should be embedded--the rest can go to a list at
    the end of the copy.

Readers want context
  • Users can enter a site at any page, so each page
    should stand alone, without reference to a
    previous page.
  • Readers from anywhere in the world can access
    your site. Dont assume they know things that you
    may think are obvious--like the fact that Olympia
    is in Washington, etc. Explain or provide links
    to background information you think they may
  • Caption photos and illustrations.
  • Avoid jargon unless you can be sure your audience
    is fluent in it.
  • Use humor judiciously--its very subjective.
  • Users should be able to immediately see how the
    page relates to a query if they came there
    through a search engine. Highlight key words,
    start the page with a summary, and use other
    techniques to aid scanning.

Last words
  • Combining words and images doubles the chance
    people will understand your message.
  • Presenting the same information in a variety of
    ways will increase the number of people you will
  • People will try to fit the information you
    present into existing mental structures, so
    relate ideas and information to what people may
    already be familiar with. Make a personal
    connection to your audience.
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