As designers make decisions among different input and output technologies, frequently they must consider the speed with which users typically perform. Many maximum human interaction speeds are summarized in my book, Human Performance Engineering (Bailey, 1996, p. 42).
Over the past couple of years, many studies were reported that have added to our understanding of how fast people process information in real world situations. These can be considered as "typical speeds." This information can be very useful, but is difficult to find, and so I have summarized some of it here.
The average adult reading speed for English prose text in the United States seems to be around 250 to 300 words per minute.
This reading speed can be substantially increased when using rapid serial visual presentation (RSVP). People with little practice can read at 400 words per minute, while those with even less than one hour of practice can easily read at speeds of 600 to 800 words per minute or faster (Bailey and Bailey, 1999).
When people are proofreading (scanning) text on paper they do so at about 200 words per minute. Performing the exact same task using a monitor, they proofread about 10% slower at 180 words per minute (Ziefle, 1998).
People comfortably can hear words that are spoken at from 150 to 160 words per minute. This is generally the recommended rate for those who are preparing "books on tape," or for narration in videos (Williams, 1998).
However, when normal speech is increased to 210 words per minute, using compression, there is no loss in comprehension (Omoigui, N., He, L., Gupta A., Grudin, J. and Sanocki, E., 1999).
People tend to dictate to computers at about 105 words per minute (Karat, Halverson, Horn, and Karat, 1999; Lewis, 1999). Even so, there will be some mis-recognitions by the speech recognizer. After making the required corrections, the speaking rate was reduced to an average of 25 words per minute when doing transcription. New users had an average speaking rate of 14 words per minute when transcribing, and only 8 words per minute when composing (Karat, Halverson, Horn, and Karat, 1999).
The fastest typists can enter well over 150 words per minute. Many jobs require keyboard speeds of 60-70 words per minute. However, when actual typing speeds are collected for people that use computers, they are much slower. In one study the typing rates for simple transcription averaged only 33 words per minute, and for composition the average was only 19 words per minute (Karat, Halverson, Horn, and Karat, 1999).
In this same study, participants were divided into three groups according to their typing skills. The fastest typists averaged only 40 words per minute, those that had "moderate" speed averaged 35 words per minute, and those that were considered "slow" typed at 23 words per minute.
Two-finger typists can key memorized text at about 37 words per minute, and copy from one form to another at about 27 words per minute (Brown, 1988).
On average, people write (handprint) at about 31 words per minute for memorized text, and about 22 words per minute when copying text (Brown, 1988). It is interesting that the original Remington typewriter was sold with the promise that it would enable users to enter information "twice as fast as they could write."
Bailey, R.W. (1996). Human Performance Engineering: Designing High Quality Professional User Interfaces for Computer Products, Applications and Systems, Prentice-Hall: Upper Saddle River, NJ.
Bailey, R.W. and Bailey, L.M. (1999), Reading speeds using RSVP, User Interface Update – February 1999.
Karat, C.M., Halverson, C., Horn, D. and Karat, J. (1999), Patterns of entry and correction in large vocabulary continuous speech recognition systems, CHI 99 Conference Proceedings, 568-575.
Lewis, J.R. (1999), Effect of error correction strategy on speech dictation throughput, Proceedings of the Human Factors and Ergonomics Society - 1999, 457-461.
Omoigui, N., He, L., Gupta A., Grudin, J. and Sanocki, E. (1999), Time-compression: Systems concerns, usage, and benefits, CHI 99 Conference Proceedings, 136-143.
Williams, J. R. (1998). Guidelines for the use of multimedia in instruction, Proceedings of the Human Factors and Ergonomics Society 42nd Annual Meeting, 1447-1451.
Ziefle, M. (1998), Effects of display resolution on visual performance, Human Factors, 40(4), 555-568.
Sign up to get our Newsletter delivered straight to your inbox
HFI may use “cookies” or “web beacons” to track how Users use the Website. A cookie is a piece of software that a web server can store on Users’ PCs and use to identify Users should they visit the Website again. Users may adjust their web browser software if they do not wish to accept cookies. To withdraw your consent after accepting a cookie, delete the cookie from your computer.
HFI believes that every User should know how it utilizes the information collected from Users. The Website is not directed at children under 13 years of age, and HFI does not knowingly collect personally identifiable information from children under 13 years of age online. Please note that the Website may contain links to other websites. These linked sites may not be operated or controlled by HFI. HFI is not responsible for the privacy practices of these or any other websites, and you access these websites entirely at your own risk. HFI recommends that you review the privacy practices of any other websites that you choose to visit.
HFI is based, and this website is hosted, in the United States of America. If User is from the European Union or other regions of the world with laws governing data collection and use that may differ from U.S. law and User is registering an account on the Website, visiting the Website, purchasing products or services from HFI or the Website, or otherwise using the Website, please note that any personally identifiable information that User provides to HFI will be transferred to the United States. Any such personally identifiable information provided will be processed and stored in the United States by HFI or a service provider acting on its behalf. By providing your personally identifiable information, User hereby specifically and expressly consents to such transfer and processing and the uses and disclosures set forth herein.
In the course of its business, HFI may perform expert reviews, usability testing, and other consulting work where personal privacy is a concern. HFI believes in the importance of protecting personal information, and may use measures to provide this protection, including, but not limited to, using consent forms for participants or “dummy” test data.
HFI may use personally identifiable information collected through the Website for the specific purposes for which the information was collected, to process purchases and sales of products or services offered via the Website if any, to contact Users regarding products and services offered by HFI, its parent, subsidiary and other related companies in order to otherwise to enhance Users’ experience with HFI. HFI may also use information collected through the Website for research regarding the effectiveness of the Website and the business planning, marketing, advertising and sales efforts of HFI. HFI does not sell any User information under any circumstances.
HFI may disclose personally identifiable information collected from Users to its parent, subsidiary and other related companies to use the information for the purposes outlined above, as necessary to provide the services offered by HFI and to provide the Website itself, and for the specific purposes for which the information was collected. HFI may disclose personally identifiable information at the request of law enforcement or governmental agencies or in response to subpoenas, court orders or other legal process, to establish, protect or exercise HFI’s legal or other rights or to defend against a legal claim or as otherwise required or allowed by law. HFI may disclose personally identifiable information in order to protect the rights, property or safety of a User or any other person. HFI may disclose personally identifiable information to investigate or prevent a violation by User of any contractual or other relationship with HFI or the perpetration of any illegal or harmful activity. HFI may also disclose aggregate, anonymous data based on information collected from Users to investors and potential partners. Finally, HFI may disclose or transfer personally identifiable information collected from Users in connection with or in contemplation of a sale of its assets or business or a merger, consolidation or other reorganization of its business.
If a User includes such User’s personally identifiable information as part of the User posting to the Website, such information may be made available to any parties using the Website. HFI does not edit or otherwise remove such information from User information before it is posted on the Website. If a User does not wish to have such User’s personally identifiable information made available in this manner, such User must remove any such information before posting. HFI is not liable for any damages caused or incurred due to personally identifiable information made available in the foregoing manners. For example, a User posts on an HFI-administered forum would be considered Personal Information as provided by User and subject to the terms of this section.
Information about Users that is maintained on HFI’s systems or those of its service providers is protected using industry standard security measures. However, no security measures are perfect or impenetrable, and HFI cannot guarantee that the information submitted to, maintained on or transmitted from its systems will be completely secure. HFI is not responsible for the circumvention of any privacy settings or security measures relating to the Website by any Users or third parties.
Human Factors International, Inc.
PO Box 2020
410 W Lowe Ave
Fairfield IA 52556