Layout and Highlighting in On-Line Information
Sixty subjects were shown online information similar to commercially marketed microcomputer software. Information content was held constant across experimental groups, while the following layout features are manipulated: multicolor and monochrome highlighting; single and two-column arrangement of text; and short, medium and long text lines. Eye movement of some subjects was monitored by an eyecamera system; and keystroke errors were monitored for other subjects. Response speed was monitored for all subjects.
Results show negligible performance gain for monochrome highlighting and response speed decrements for some kinds of multicolor highlighting. For example, multicolor highlighting disrupted eye movements characteristics of normal reading patterns. Columnar arrangement and line length had minimal effect on performance.
Subject input errors were evenly balanced between syntactic errors and major logical errors.
The factor most consistently producing gains in user performance was practice on successive trials. When repeated trials were combined with feedback to subjects about their errors, results show substantial reduction in syntactic input errors.
The paper discusses implications of the findings for computer interface design.
KeywordsTarget Word Human Factor Line Length Online Information Text Line
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