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Category: Lit Review: Literature Review

Lit: Type on Screen

There is not much useful data on how to make text look as readable as possible on screen. I have found that for me it’s uncomfortable to read PDFs due to type, layout and strong black on white. The advice I get is simply to print the documents out, but that would defeat the purpose of my thesis, which includes the aspect of literature review and how to make it more effective not just to read and annotate, but to find annotations later and to cite from the literature.

“What’s the most readable font for the screen?” does not provide anything useful, it, as many other sites, say much is personal choice, other than pointing out that for non-retina screens sans-serif looks best but for retina displays that difference has been reduced.

“Type Sizes or Every Device” covers different displays quite well, but I’m only designing for computer screens for this project so it’s not brilliantly useful, other than pointing our the importance of contrast for legibility.

I have looked at applications as well, particularly Apple iBooks which have #f9f3e9 background colour and #5f3e24 as the font colour. This is what I started using for my own Author project, but it’s drifted through experimenting from that to #f5efdd for the background colour, which you can see is a bit less red. Notice also that in Author I use fully black text.

Author                  iBooksbackground-colour

Screen Colours, Columns & Column Width

My poll on two screenshots on Facebook is here and in summary the preference is largely for a cream background but not too wide columns, which fits with my own preference and what I can find online, though a word processor view with a very narrow column wastes a lot of screen space so maybe we should add an option for setting the max width or maybe we should encourage the user to use non-full screen and go as narrow as they prefer.

I have measured newspapers and found that they have about 7 words per line. Additionally:  “Anything from 45 to 75 characters is widely regarded as a satisfactory length of line for a single-column page set in a serifed text face in a text size. The 66-character line(counting both letters and spaces) is widely regarded as ideal. For multiple column work, a better average is 40 to 50 characters.”


Major Sites Survey 

These sites all have white background (#fff) and differing colour text:

Quora: #333 on #fff
facebook: #141823 on #fff
twitter: #292f33 on #fff
linkedin: #333 on #fff
New York Times: #333 on #fff

From Quora I also read “High contrast color pairs, such as black and white, can create a sense of vibration on the screen and stress the eyes.” Jonah Model, Digital product designer, founder of Paper & Equator which makes sense.



As a conclusion I’m sticking with the Author colours for now at least, the beige background in Read mode and light grey in Edit mode and we’ll change it if testing indicates we should.


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Lit: Literary Review Visual Style

I have been bothered by how much easier I find reading online in Author (and other similar layout programs) than the PDFs so I put up an album on Facebook to see what my friends think, if they think it’s no big deal or interesting:

Conclusion seems to be a preference for single column without clutter which should not be too wide but should also not waste space so multiple windows work for some and full frame for others, while in concentration mode.

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Lit: Strategies to Help Students ‘Go Deep’ When Reading Digitally


Those who prefer reading in print talk about the ability to flip pages, write in the margins and that they remember a scene based on where it was located on the page.

Digital reading takes place on a flat screen and the ability to hyperlink to related content makes the experience feel more like stream of consciousness than like a linear reading experience. It takes more self-control to stay focused when reading digitally, a challenge for many students used to quickly navigating around the Web. “It’s an amazing thing, but it also causes a lot of fragmentation,” Hess said.

1) “The goal in almost all the strategies is to slow the kids down so they are focusing on this text,” Hess said.
2) “Number two is to engage them in an active way with the text, and
3) number three you want to encourage oral discourse. And number four you want them to do some reflection.”

Those steps should sound familiar to teachers because they are important for any kind of reading for comprehension and analysis. The trick for teachers is to learn how to transfer these processes into the digital space and push them even further.

“Part of it is getting kids to be thinking about why they are reading something,” Hess said. Often kids will read an entire paragraph, understand all the words in it, but never slow down to make meaning or look for main ideas. This basic reading strategy forces them to do so. Once students can identify the main idea of a reading, the next task is to understand the flow of the ideas and to connect concepts.

Katrina Schwartz

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