Designing Better Reading Interfaces is Good for Business

Michael Hernandez


Businesses succeed based on efficiency and speed and continually look for ways to trim costs to enhance profits. That can be a tricky thing to do during the pandemic, especially with the instability and rising costs of the labor market. And when companies are asking workers to do more than ever, efficiency and accuracy can suffer. But tech companies like Adobe are tackling these challenges with updates to their Acrobat Reader mobile app that helps employees become faster and more efficient with text-heavy tasks.

‘Liquid Mode’ allows users to customize digital texts by changing fonts, sizes, line and word spacing to make reading digital texts more efficient. Adobe developed this new feature after studies from the University of Central Florida found that making these kinds of adjustments increases reading speed of adults by as much as 10 pages an hour. This can make for huge cost savings for businesses of any size, especially those that rely on reading and reviewing text.

Proofreaders, for example, are often used to help produce professional documents for employees and customers, and their fees can be as high as $95 per hour. Legal proceedings and policy development rely on text-based documents almost exclusively; Rand has estimated that as much as 73 percent of the cost of lawsuits stems from the time spent reading texts.

Consider financial analysts, aerospace engineers, health care professionals, and scientists. Virtually any profession that relies on reading and processing text can benefit from the efficiency of improved literacy when text is tuned to the individual needs of each reader.

Formatting changes to digital texts does more than improve speed–it also improves comprehension 20 percent on average in children. Adult studies to date have demonstrated speed increases while holding comprehension constant. Ball et al. and Wallace et al. This is critical in professions where mistakes in reading can be costly or even deadly.

Healthcare workers face some of the most challenging conditions, and research has shown that errors in documentation can put the lives of patients at risk. It’s one of the reasons why there has been a push for conversion to electronic healthcare records, a form of digital text that could easily integrate customizable text features to improve patient health, lower costs, and improve efficiency.

A few years ago, airlines got rid of heavy binders of printouts that pilots used to lug into cockpits and exchanged them for iPad devices. Using digital devices reduces cargo weight by about 100 lbs and improves fuel efficiency, but these devices also allow pilots to see up-to-date flight plans, weather updates, airport maps, gate information, and other data crucial to flights. With long hours and the stresses related to flying, improved reading fluency for pilots stemming from readability formatting changes could also minimize errors and make a significant difference when it comes to airline safety.

Even in lower-stakes fields, gains from customizable text can’t be overlooked. With only about 13 percent of adults in the U.S. proficient at reading, employers need to find ways to help their workforce become efficient readers and productive employees. The improved readability that comes from user-tuned digital texts could be the solution.

Find out for yourself how this works. Try tuning your own text with this hands-on demo, or read more about how the readability of digital texts can help your business.


Michael Hernandez, @cinehead, www.michael-hernandez.netAbout Michael Hernandez: Michael is an award-winning teacher, author and consultant. He is an Apple Distinguished Educator and Lindblad Expeditions/National Geographic Grosvenor Teacher Fellow. Follow him on Twitter at @cinehead and at