May 5, 2011
By Alix E. Peshette
An interesting online article caught my eye with the words font styles, learning and memory. Apparently, there is a link between font styles and memory!
“New research finds that people retain significantly more material — whether science, history or language — when they study it in a font that is not only unfamiliar but also hard to read.
One reason for this has to do with a cognitive quality known as fluency, a measure of how easy a piece of information is to process. The brain automatically associates perceptual fluency, or ease of storage, with retrieval fluency, ease of recall. This is a good rule of thumb for lots of new facts, but not when studying difficult concepts that don’t fall easily into a person’s areas of expertise or interest.”
So, the harder you work at reading text, the more you remember it. Finally, we have an incentive to expand our repertoire of font styles! Here’s a quick tour of favorite quirky font styles. All free on 1001 Free Fonts.
July 27, 2010
by Alix E. Peshette
No one is reading online content! Yes, that’s right, according to a “readability expert.” The proclaimation isn’t all bad news; it’s just one more indicator of human adaptation to the digital environment. The word is that everyone now scans web pages. Without going into the whys and wherefores and bemoaning this development; how people now read online content is fascinating! It also supports some of my personal ideas about the formatting of text on digital and printed pages.
I started looking into readability research to quote in a professional development grant proposal. It wasn’t easy to find much on this topic. There were lots of resources for readability tests; Flesch Reading Ease, Flesch-Kincaid grade level, the 850-word Ogden “Basic” or “Simple English” set, but I wanted research.
Here’s what I found; yes, we scan text – in an F shaped pattern! Eyetracking researcher Jakob Nielsen summarized that
“Eyetracking visualizations show that users often read web pages in an F-shaped pattern: two horizontal stripes followed by a vertical stripe.”
“In our new eyetracking study, we recorded how 232 users looked at thousands of Web pages. We found that users’ main reading behavior was fairly consistent across many different sites and tasks. This dominant reading pattern looks somewhat like an F and has the following three components:
- Users first read in a horizontal movement, usually across the upper part of the content area. This initial element forms the F’s top bar.
- Next, users move down the page a bit and then read across in a second horizontal movement that typically covers a shorter area than the previous movement. This additional element forms the F’s lower bar.
- Finally, users scan the content’s left side in a vertical movement. Sometimes this is a fairly slow and systematic scan that appears as a solid stripe on an eyetracking heatmap. Other times users move faster, creating a spottier heatmap. This last element forms the F’s stem.”
For devotees of white space, bullets and “clumps of text” on web pages and in print, this is sweet vindication! So what do we need to do so that audiences read what we post?
“ Web pages have to employ scannable text, using
- highlighted keywords (hypertext links serve as one form of highlighting; typeface variations and color are others)
- meaningful sub-headings (not “clever” ones)
- bulleted lists
- one idea per paragraph (users will skip over any additional ideas if they are not caught by the first few words in the paragraph)
- the inverted pyramid style, starting with the conclusion
- half the word count (or less) than conventional writing “
This calls for a major re-thinking of how we educators produce content for our 21st century learners. There is more on how to write for the web on Nielsen’s web site. While this is only one research study, it’s fairly current as of 2006. I would love to find more on this topic. If you have any sites to share, please leave a comment!
May 28, 2010
By Alix E. Peshette
We have probably all been subjected to online course content that is of the “copy-text-to-web-page” variety. It’s deadly dull and right up there with the droning lecture. Every designer of educational content needs attention-grabbing graphics and good design to set the stage in online learning. What stops many of us from being more creative is the lack of a high-powered graphics program and the skills to get the most out of that program. Let’s step back from that idea and consider the ubiquitous PowerPoint program.
Sure, PowerPoint has been ridiculed for static text with endless bullet points and if you have attended many conferences, you have probably seen every cliché PowerPoint background. But, truth be told, PowerPoint is the basis of most e-learning content! Instructional designers start with PowerPoint to create backgrounds and graphics to import into an e-learning authoring program such as Articulate and Captivate. The added bonus is that PowerPoint 2007 has darn good graphics capabilities.
Acquiring the skills is now easier than ever since the development of Web 2.0 screen casting applications. These web-based programs have inspired the graphically talented to share their tips and tricks for creating great graphics in PowerPoint. Most of the screen cast tutorials are five minutes long or less. Think of this as a quick shot of informal learning that builds up your supply of cool graphics.
Here’s a couple great places to start with PowerPoint tutorials for e-learning content!
200 Free Rapid E-Learning Tutorials
50 Tutorials to Help You Achieve E-Learning Awesomeness
My Delicious Links for E-Learning
Free Cool Tools
Poladroid – Create your own Polaroid pictures
Pixie – Need to know the code of a color?
Newspaper Front Page Generator
Fifty-Five Extremely Useful Online Generators for Designers
Accessibility Color Wheel
Color Schemer Online
beFunky – Photo Effects Generator
Hockneyizer – Create a Unique Photo Collage