Typeface part 1: Contrast
This entry comes courtesy a talented colleague of mine at IDV, Keith Stoneman.
A key participant in web usability that is often overlooked is typography. There have been a few studies showing that people tend to read 10% -30% faster when reading printed versus online materials. The studies concluded that there a variety of reasons. Most of these conclusions fall outside the designer’s control due to the medium. For example, monitor orientation (Gould 1986) and the lack of flexibility for adjustments. But where do designers fail?
Poor typography and more specifically contrast. When something is hard to read everyone notices, but when it’s great nobody notices (evidence of good design is that the user doesn’t think about the design). A successful film score is one that facilitates the message and feel of the film without the viewers checking out of the experience enough to think, ‘hey, this is a great film score -it really helps me connect with the characters and comprehend the theme!’
With web typography the challenges are not just to the given typefaces (or the lack thereof) but also color and contrast. There are those who curse the gray text phenomenon on the web. Aycan Gulez contends that gray text on white doesn’t have enough contrast and concludes that black text on gray is easier to read. Maybe, but that is just a matter of inversion, rather than a change in contrast. Both reduced contrast and both are easier to read. But a word of caution here, don’t have too little contrast and please avoid overly bright and conflicting colors.