Web Page Readability / Usability Research


Scharff, L. & Kortum, P.  (2009).  The Effect of Small Changes in Web Page Navigation on Performance of Users Who Revisit Sites. Journal of Usability Studies, Vol 5(1), 8-20.

Kortum, P.& Scharff, L.V. (2009). Eye-tracking Measures of User Behavior During Web Site Re-visitation.  Proceedings of the Human Factors and Ergonomics Society, San Antonio, TX. Human Factors and Ergonomics Society, 1244- 1248.

Scharff, L. & Kortum, P. (2008).  The immediate benefit of disappearing web links. Texas Human Factors and Ergonomics convention.

Kortum, P. & Scharff, L. (2007). The effect of small changes in web page navigation links on the performance of users who revisit sites. Proceedings of the 51st Annual Human Factors and Ergonomics Society. Santa Monica, CA. Human Factors and Ergonomics Society, 1138-1142. [Abstract]

Scharff, L. (2006). Who moved my link? Search performance on repeated tasks. Human Factors and Ergonomic Society Houston Chapter Conference.

Greer, S., Sowden, E., & Scharff, L.(2005). Email Format and Instructions: Influences on Reading Times, Retention, and Preferences. American Journal of Psychological Research, Vol 1, 117-128.

Greer, S. & Scharff, L. (2005). Influences of Web site Structure, Navigation, and Internet Self-Efficacy on Task Performance and Web site Evaluation. HFES Houston Chapter Regional Conference.

Masters Thesis by Lori Shird (2003):Examining Usability and its Effects on User Satisfaction and User Preferences for Interface Design


Other studies with students: The following variables have been studied as they relate to readability of text displays on web pages. Brief summaries are given below and include links to more detailed summaries, papers, or abstracts.

Return to Scharff research summary page.

Font x Font Style x Foreground / Background Color Combinations

With (then) undergraduate student Alyson Hill : In 1997 we investigated the influence of font, font style,and foreground / background color combinations on the readability oftext. As a secondary experiment, we did the same, only using black text on backgrounds of varying shades of gray. Any persons interested in the results of the above experiments may access the paper (detailed text; as waspublished in the Proceedings of the 11th National Conference ofUndergraduate Research).

In order to select the 6 foreground/backgroundcolor combinations we used in our first experiment, we first gathered subjective data by means of an internet survey. Check out our survey results.


Background Texture x Background Color x Color Saturation

With graduate student Alyson Hill: using the same technique we developed for the above study, we investigated the influence that differently textured backgrounds hadon readabilty. Further we investigated whether saturation (or lightness of the background) and color of the background interactedwith the effects of texture. Finally, we collected subjective ratings of each background stimulus to find out how well individuals' ratings correlated with their performance. A summary of the findings is posted, and the full paper will be published in the Proceedings for theSecond International Conference for Engineering Psychology and Cognitive Ergonomics.


Text Width x Border Width

With undergraduate student MelissaYoungman: we investigated the influence of text width and border width on the readability of text in a graphical user interface. Both objective data (reaction times and accuracy) and subjective data (subject preferences) were collected and analyzed. This work was presented at SWPA and the National Conference for Undergraduate Research.


Font Size x LineSpacing

With undergraduate student Stayce Williams: we investigated the influence of font size and linespacing on the readability of text in a graphical user interface. Check out the abstract and a graph of the results.


Age x Contrast x Contrast Direction (polarity)

With undergraduates Ben Parker and Michelle Hills: we have investigated the influence of age, amount of contrast, and direction of contrast on the readability of text. We collected and analyzed both objective and subjective data, and investigated the relationship between users' preference and actual performance. Check out the write-up of this research.


Foreground / Background and Contrast Effects

As part of a senior class project the effects of three background colors (red, yellow, and grey), three foreground colors (black, blue and green) and two contrasts (high and low) were investigated. Click here for a write-up of the experiment.