Cool stuff and UX resources

< Back to newsletters

Screen Fonts

It is very difficult to improve reading performance. Historically, one way to improve performance has been to create newer, clearer fonts. Most fonts being read on computer monitors were designed to be read from paper. This study evaluated two fonts that were specifically designed for use on computer monitors. The new fonts were Georgia and Verdana.


  • This is an example of 10 point Times New Roman font
  • This is an example of 10 point Verdana font
  • This is an example of 10 point Verdana Italics font

After designing the fonts, they conducted a study to examine people's speed of reading with the new fonts. Participants in the studies were people from Carnegie Mellon University, including faculty, staff and graduate students who ranged in age from 20 to 53.

All text was set at 10 points with 13 points leading and an average line length of 10 words. Subjects read the text on a 17 inch screen with a resolution of 640 x 480 pixels.

They compared the following:

  • Georgia (serif) vs. Times Roman (serif)
  • Georgia (serif) vs. Verdana (sans serif)
  • Verdana vs. Verdana Italic

They found no reliable performance differences in reading speed.

Next they evaluated aliased vs. anti-aliased fonts. Anti-aliased fonts use levels of color in selected pixels to eliminate the appearance of jagged edges (the "jaggies"). In these studies, all text was displayed at 16 points (a character must be at least 14 points for the anti-aliasing to show).

They compared the following fonts:

  • Adobe anti-aliased vs. Microsoft bitmap
  • Microsoft anti-aliased vs. Microsoft bitmap
  • Adobe anti-aliased vs. Microsoft anti-aliased

Again, they found no performance differences in reading speed.

The screen fonts that have been used successfully for the past few years seem to work as well as newly designed fonts. There seems to be no reliable differences between serif and sans-serif fonts, or between aliased and anti-aliased fonts. If reading speed is to be improved, it appears that it will not come from making changes to the fonts.

Improvement in reading speed when using computers will require more drastic alternatives.

Speed Reading

Aaronson and Colet (1997) have proposed several ways to improve reading speed. They described some methods that have been developed in computer laboratories over the past few years to help in controlling text displays for reading research.

One method had subjects pace themselves through word sequences. Each time they pressed a key on the keyboard a new word would show in the center of the screen (overwriting the existing word). In this way, the subjects could pace themselves through word sequences. Reading speed was improved over the speed of reading from a document because virtually all eye movements (saccades) were eliminated.

A closely related, but alternative method, was to allow subjects to have each key press show a new word, but to have some or all preceding words remain on the screen. In this way a sentence or paragraph gradually appears, which allowed users to glance back at previously read material.

One of the most promising methods is called Rapid Serial Visual Presentation (RSVP). It was first used in the mid-1960s for rapidly displaying individual words, one at a time, in the center of a monitor's screen. Each new word replaced the old word. Users set the rate that the computer presented the words. This approach has demonstrated a capacity to substantially improve reading speed.

In the 1999 User Interface Update course (see below), the RSVP method is used to illustrate how quickly reading performance can be improved. In one class the average reading speed from a paper document was measured to be 342 words-per-minute, with a range from 143 to 540 words-per-minute. After determining the basic reading rate, the class members read material presented on the screen, one word at a time, at 600, then 800, then 1,000, then 1,300, and finally at 1,600 words-per-minute. After each set of reading material, the students answered multiple choice questions about the text.

The top reading speeds were as follows for measured comprehension scores of 75% or higher:

  • 1,600 wpm – 3 people
  • 1,300 wpm – 8 people
  • 1,000 wpm – 3 people
  • 800 wpm – 0 (nobody)
  • 600 wpm – 2 people

The average for the class was 1212 wpm, which is about 3.5 times faster than reading in the traditional way. There is no question that the computer can help improve reading performance; but it must be done in non-traditional ways.


Screen Fonts

A study of fonts designed for screen display, Boyarski, D., Neuwirth, C., Forlizzi, J., and Regli, S.H., CHI 98 Conference Proceedings, 87-94 (1998).

Speed Reading

Reading paradigms: From lab to cyberspace? Aaronsn, D. and Colet, E., Behavior Research Methods, Instruments and Computers, 29 (2), 250-255 (1997).

Leave a comment here

Reader comments

Scott Bower

Suggest research study along these same lines using modern technology and application such as Humanized Enso and Quicksilver, both of which utilize findings in these articles and attempt to increase task speeds and readability by creating a consistent command-line user interface that controls disperate UI conventions on their desktops.


Sign up to get our Newsletter delivered straight to your inbox

Follow us

Privacy policy

Reviewed: 18 Mar 2014

This Privacy Policy governs the manner in which Human Factors International, Inc., an Iowa corporation (“HFI”) collects, uses, maintains and discloses information collected from users (each, a “User”) of its website and any derivative or affiliated websites on which this Privacy Policy is posted (collectively, the “Website”). HFI reserves the right, at its discretion, to change, modify, add or remove portions of this Privacy Policy at any time by posting such changes to this page. You understand that you have the affirmative obligation to check this Privacy Policy periodically for changes, and you hereby agree to periodically review this Privacy Policy for such changes. The continued use of the Website following the posting of changes to this Privacy Policy constitutes an acceptance of those changes.


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.

The Information HFI Collects

Users browsing the Website without registering an account or affirmatively providing personally identifiable information to HFI do so anonymously. Otherwise, HFI may collect personally identifiable information from Users in a variety of ways. Personally identifiable information may include, without limitation, (i)contact data (such as a User’s name, mailing and e-mail addresses, and phone number); (ii)demographic data (such as a User’s zip code, age and income); (iii) financial information collected to process purchases made from HFI via the Website or otherwise (such as credit card, debit card or other payment information); (iv) other information requested during the account registration process; and (v) other information requested by our service vendors in order to provide their services. If a User communicates with HFI by e-mail or otherwise, posts messages to any forums, completes online forms, surveys or entries or otherwise interacts with or uses the features on the Website, any information provided in such communications may be collected by HFI. HFI may also collect information about how Users use the Website, for example, by tracking the number of unique views received by the pages of the Website, or the domains and IP addresses from which Users originate. While not all of the information that HFI collects from Users is personally identifiable, it may be associated with personally identifiable information that Users provide HFI through the Website or otherwise. HFI may provide ways that the User can opt out of receiving certain information from HFI. If the User opts out of certain services, User information may still be collected for those services to which the User elects to subscribe. For those elected services, this Privacy Policy will apply.

How HFI Uses Information

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.

Disclosure of Information

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.

Personal Information as Provided by User

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.

Security of Information

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.

Correcting, Updating, Accessing or Removing Personal Information

If a User’s personally identifiable information changes, or if a User no longer desires to receive non-account specific information from HFI, HFI will endeavor to provide a way to correct, update and/or remove that User’s previously-provided personal data. This can be done by emailing a request to HFI at Additionally, you may request access to the personally identifiable information as collected by HFI by sending a request to HFI as set forth above. Please note that in certain circumstances, HFI may not be able to completely remove a User’s information from its systems. For example, HFI may retain a User’s personal information for legitimate business purposes, if it may be necessary to prevent fraud or future abuse, for account recovery purposes, if required by law or as retained in HFI’s data backup systems or cached or archived pages. All retained personally identifiable information will continue to be subject to the terms of the Privacy Policy to which the User has previously agreed.

Contacting HFI

If you have any questions or comments about this Privacy Policy, you may contact HFI via any of the following methods:
Human Factors International, Inc.
PO Box 2020
1680 highway 1, STE 3600
Fairfield IA 52556
(800) 242-4480

Terms and Conditions for Public Training Courses

Reviewed: 18 Mar 2014

Cancellation of Course by HFI

HFI reserves the right to cancel any course up to 14 (fourteen) days prior to the first day of the course. Registrants will be promptly notified and will receive a full refund or be transferred to the equivalent class of their choice within a 12-month period. HFI is not responsible for travel expenses or any costs that may be incurred as a result of cancellations.

Cancellation of Course by Participants (All regions except India)

$100 processing fee if cancelling within two weeks of course start date.

Cancellation / Transfer by Participants (India)

4 Pack + Exam registration: Rs. 10,000 per participant processing fee (to be paid by the participant) if cancelling or transferring the course (4 Pack-CUA/CXA) registration before three weeks from the course start date. No refund or carry forward of the course fees if cancelling or transferring the course registration within three weeks before the course start date.

Cancellation / Transfer by Participants (Online Courses)

$100 processing fee if cancelling within two weeks of course start date. No cancellations or refunds less than two weeks prior to the first course start date.

Individual Modules: Rs. 3,000 per participant ‘per module’ processing fee (to be paid by the participant) if cancelling or transferring the course (any Individual HFI course) registration before three weeks from the course start date. No refund or carry forward of the course fees if cancelling or transferring the course registration within three weeks before the course start date.

Exam: Rs. 3,000 per participant processing fee (to be paid by the participant) if cancelling or transferring the pre agreed CUA/CXA exam date before three weeks from the examination date. No refund or carry forward of the exam fees if requesting/cancelling or transferring the CUA/CXA exam within three weeks before the examination date.

No Recording Permitted

There will be no audio or video recording allowed in class. Students who have any disability that might affect their performance in this class are encouraged to speak with the instructor at the beginning of the class.

Course Materials Copyright

The course and training materials and all other handouts provided by HFI during the course are published, copyrighted works proprietary and owned exclusively by HFI. The course participant does not acquire title nor ownership rights in any of these materials. Further the course participant agrees not to reproduce, modify, and/or convert to electronic format (i.e., softcopy) any of the materials received from or provided by HFI. The materials provided in the class are for the sole use of the class participant. HFI does not provide the materials in electronic format to the participants in public or onsite courses.