In a newly published paper, researchers from Brown University, Adobe Inc., University of Central Florida, and Riverdale Country School studied the impact of font change on 386 skilled readers, ages 18-71.
Readers were evaluated with subsets of sixteen fonts. The results demonstrate that reading outcomes can be improved significantly by changing the typeface for the individual. Readers experienced higher reading speed without sacrificing comprehension. Individual readers experienced differences of 75 words per minute (WPM) using different fonts. Most impressively, participants read 32% faster (313 WPM) in their fastest font compared to their slowest font (238 WPM) out of the five tested. The researchers estimate the difference equates to reading an additional 3-4 pages per hour.
The paper’s abstract is included here; visit the team’s website to access the full paper and links to the research tools they created. Full Research Website
Towards Readability Individuation: The Right Changes to Text Format make Large Impacts on Reading Speed
Shaun Wallace, Rick Treitman, Nirmal Kumawat, Kathleen Arpin, Jeff Huang, Ben Sawyer, Zoya Bylinskii
In our age of ubiquitous digital displays, adults often read in short, opportunistic interludes. We consider, for the first time, whether reading outcomes in this unique Interlude Reading can be improved by tailoring typeface to the individual. Hundreds of participants provide a foundation for understanding which fonts people prefer and which make them more effective readers. Results reveal that while 77% believed their preferred font would be fastest to read in; this was only valid for 20%. Differences between best and worst font average 75 words per minute (WPM), with no significant changes in comprehension. High WPM variability for every font suggests that one font does not fit all. We here provide recommendations for favorable fonts related to higher reading speed without sacrificing comprehension and suggest that our methodological approach can be used to model for individuation, allowing digital devices to match their users’ needs in-the-moment.