Req: Reference on readability of centered vs left-justified text

13 Aug 2007 - 2:54pm
6 years ago
12 replies
5134 reads
Anonymous

Does anyone have a reference showing that left-justified text is more
readable than centered text?

Something like:
(a) an academic study or paper
(b) a textbook
(c) a well-known graphic design book

I've been googling for a while and have found many pages that agree
with me, but none citing sources. :/

Paul

shad 96c / uw cs 2001
fan of / ewb / eff / aclu / cc / mac os x / toyota prius / habs
/ friday night lights / v. mars / steve poltz / libbie schrader

"The pundits told us we were crazy idealists. What they didn't tell
us is that positive social change is always shaped by crazy
idealists who refuse to be dismissed."
-- Medea Benjamin, _I, Senator_

Comments

13 Aug 2007 - 3:26pm
visual hokie
2007

Paul,

I recall Eva Brumberger (PhD, Virginia Tech) writing two pieces on
Typefaces and Fonts in Technical Communication (STC's Publication) a
few years ago. My membership has expired, so I can no longer access
the article. I wonder if anyone else on this list recalls if it
specifically addresses your need.

I hope this helps somewhat. Good luck!

bv

On 8/13/07, Paul Schreiber <shrub at mac.com> wrote:
> Does anyone have a reference showing that left-justified text is more
> readable than centered text?
>
> Something like:
> (a) an academic study or paper
> (b) a textbook
> (c) a well-known graphic design book
>
> I've been googling for a while and have found many pages that agree
> with me, but none citing sources. :/
>
>
>
> Paul
>
> shad 96c / uw cs 2001
> fan of / ewb / eff / aclu / cc / mac os x / toyota prius / habs
> / friday night lights / v. mars / steve poltz / libbie schrader
>
> "The pundits told us we were crazy idealists. What they didn't tell
> us is that positive social change is always shaped by crazy
> idealists who refuse to be dismissed."
> -- Medea Benjamin, _I, Senator_
>
> ________________________________________________________________
> Welcome to the Interaction Design Association (IxDA)!
> To post to this list ....... discuss at ixda.org
> List Guidelines ............ http://beta.ixda.org/guidelines
> List Help .................. http://beta.ixda.org/help
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>

13 Aug 2007 - 3:35pm
bminihan
2007

Not sure if this is what you're looking for, but here are a few:
Designing Web Usability, (New Riders, 2000) Jakob Nielsen, pp 126, "Chap 3: Content Design":
"Almost all text should be left-justified. By having a steady starting point for the eye to start scanning, the user can read much faster than when faced with centered or right-justified text. Of course, it is acceptable to center or right-justify a few lines for effect, but one should not do so for blocks of text." (Nielsen, pp 126)

Also: Age-Related Research-Based Usability Guidelines: http://www.usability.gov/pubs/112005news.html

Left alignment is usually best for text: http://www.benefit-from-it.com/index.php?fa=wdu101presentingText.alignment

UI Wizards: Web Blooper of the Month: Centering Everything: http://www.uiwizards.com/wBloop14.html

There could be more, including references in Nielsen's book and @ Usability.gov (can't imagine they would cite anything without research).

- Bryan
http://www.bryanminihan.com

---- Paul Schreiber <shrub at mac.com> wrote:
> Does anyone have a reference showing that left-justified text is more
> readable than centered text?
>
> Something like:
> (a) an academic study or paper
> (b) a textbook
> (c) a well-known graphic design book
>
> I've been googling for a while and have found many pages that agree
> with me, but none citing sources. :/
>
>
>
> Paul
>
> shad 96c / uw cs 2001
> fan of / ewb / eff / aclu / cc / mac os x / toyota prius / habs
> / friday night lights / v. mars / steve poltz / libbie schrader
>
> "The pundits told us we were crazy idealists. What they didn't tell
> us is that positive social change is always shaped by crazy
> idealists who refuse to be dismissed."
> -- Medea Benjamin, _I, Senator_
>
> ________________________________________________________________
> Welcome to the Interaction Design Association (IxDA)!
> To post to this list ....... discuss at ixda.org
> List Guidelines ............ http://beta.ixda.org/guidelines
> List Help .................. http://beta.ixda.org/help
> Unsubscribe ................ http://beta.ixda.org/unsubscribe
> Questions .................. list at ixda.org
> Home ....................... http://beta.ixda.org

--

13 Aug 2007 - 3:32pm
Stacy Felish
2007

"Align text box labels on the left. Do not right-align labels. Right-aligned labels produce a ragged left margin, which is hard to scan."

Page 201
Book Title: GUI Design Essentials
By: Susan Weinschenk, Pamela Jamar, Sarah C. Yeo.

Hope this helps!

Sincerely,
Stacy Felish

-----Original Message-----
From: Paul Schreiber <shrub at mac.com>
To: discuss at lists.interactiondesigners.com
Sent: Mon, 13 Aug 2007 2:54 pm
Subject: [IxDA Discuss] Req: Reference on readability of centered vs left-justified text

Does anyone have a reference showing that left-justified text is more
readable than centered text?

Something like:
(a) an academic study or paper
(b) a textbook
(c) a well-known graphic design book

I've been googling for a while and have found many pages that agree
with me, but none citing sources. :/

Paul

shad 96c / uw cs 2001
fan of / ewb / eff / aclu / cc / mac os x / toyota prius / habs
/ friday night lights / v. mars / steve poltz / libbie schrader

"The pundits told us we were crazy idealists. What they didn't tell
us is that positive social change is always shaped by crazy
idealists who refuse to be dismissed."
-- Medea Benjamin, _I, Senator_

________________________________________________________________
Welcome to the Interaction Design Association (IxDA)!
To post to this list ....... discuss at ixda.org
List Guidelines ............ http://beta.ixda.org/guidelines
List Help .................. http://beta.ixda.org/help
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13 Aug 2007 - 3:57pm
Jeff Howard
2004

Two graphic design books come to mind. The Elements of Typographic
Style by Robert Bringhurst, chapter 2 "Rhythm and Proportion" and
Beyond the Mac is Not a Typewriter by Robin Williams, chapter 17
"Alignment."

If you're looking for a succinct quote, Williams writes: "Speaking
just in terms of alignment, text aligned on the left is the most
readable." [116].

// jeff

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
Posted from the new ixda.org
http://beta.ixda.org/discuss?post=19284

13 Aug 2007 - 3:42pm
Andrei Herasimchuk
2004

On Aug 13, 2007, at 1:32 PM, kiddfelish at aim.com wrote:

> "Align text box labels on the left. Do not right-align labels.
> Right-aligned labels produce a ragged left margin, which is hard to
> scan."

As with most design "rules," this one is inappropriate outside of the
context of the problem trying to be solved.

--
Andrei Herasimchuk

Principal, Involution Studios
innovating the digital world

e. andrei at involutionstudios.com
c. +1 408 306 6422

13 Aug 2007 - 3:51pm
Andrei Herasimchuk
2004

On Aug 13, 2007, at 1:35 PM, <bjminihan at nc.rr.com> wrote:

> Not sure if this is what you're looking for, but here are a few:
> Designing Web Usability, (New Riders, 2000) Jakob Nielsen, pp 126,
> "Chap 3: Content Design":
> "Almost all text should be left-justified. By having a steady
> starting point for the eye to start scanning, the user can read
> much faster than when faced with centered or right-justified text.
> Of course, it is acceptable to center or right-justify a few lines
> for effect, but one should not do so for blocks of
> text." (Nielsen, pp 126)

I always find it sadly humorous that a man with absolutely horrific
typography on his web site and with an admitted lack of training in
typography is cited for anything related to design or typography.

Do yourself a favor and grab Bringhurst's "The Elements of
Typographic Style" and go from there.

--
Andrei Herasimchuk

Principal, Involution Studios
innovating the digital world

e. andrei at involutionstudios.com
c. +1 408 306 6422

14 Aug 2007 - 12:48pm
Mark Schraad
2006

I would second this on both Nielson and Bringhurst.

Mark

On Aug 13, 2007, at 4:51 PM, Andrei Herasimchuk wrote:

> On Aug 13, 2007, at 1:35 PM, <bjminihan at nc.rr.com> wrote:
>
>> Not sure if this is what you're looking for, but here are a few:
>> Designing Web Usability, (New Riders, 2000) Jakob Nielsen, pp 126,
>> "Chap 3: Content Design":
>> "Almost all text should be left-justified. By having a steady
>> starting point for the eye to start scanning, the user can read
>> much faster than when faced with centered or right-justified text.
>> Of course, it is acceptable to center or right-justify a few lines
>> for effect, but one should not do so for blocks of
>> text." (Nielsen, pp 126)
>
> I always find it sadly humorous that a man with absolutely horrific
> typography on his web site and with an admitted lack of training in
> typography is cited for anything related to design or typography.
>
> Do yourself a favor and grab Bringhurst's "The Elements of
> Typographic Style" and go from there.
>
> --
> Andrei Herasimchuk
>
> Principal, Involution Studios
> innovating the digital world
>
> e. andrei at involutionstudios.com
> c. +1 408 306 6422
>
>
> ________________________________________________________________
> Welcome to the Interaction Design Association (IxDA)!
> To post to this list ....... discuss at ixda.org
> List Guidelines ............ http://beta.ixda.org/guidelines
> List Help .................. http://beta.ixda.org/help
> Unsubscribe ................ http://beta.ixda.org/unsubscribe
> Questions .................. list at ixda.org
> Home ....................... http://beta.ixda.org

14 Aug 2007 - 6:31pm
Jeffrey D. Gimzek
2007

On Aug 13, 2007, at 1:42 PM, Andrei Herasimchuk wrote:

> On Aug 13, 2007, at 1:32 PM, kiddfelish at aim.com wrote:
>
>> "Align text box labels on the left. Do not right-align labels.
>> Right-aligned labels produce a ragged left margin, which is hard to
>> scan."
>
> As with most design "rules," this one is inappropriate outside of the
> context of the problem trying to be solved.

i am dealing with this one now... i occasionally prefer right aligned
when the label length varies enough to make a horizontal scan over to
the text field you need to enter data in difficult.

Compare [brackets represent form field] :

Your Location: [ type your
location ]

Your Job Title: [ type your job
title ]

Your Years of related Work Experience : [type number of years in
whole numbers ]

-- VS. ---

Your Location: [ type your
location ]

Your Job Title: [ type your job
title ]

Your Years of related Work Experience : [type number of years in
whole numbers]

it seems to be that the lower example is more usable as you can
easily visually relate your entry to the label with scanning very far
to the left.

comments?

jd

--

Jeffrey D. Gimzek
Digital Experience Designer

www.jdgimzek.com
thundercougarfalconbird.blogspot.com

14 Aug 2007 - 6:47pm
Jeffrey D. Gimzek
2007

crap. stupid line wrapping screwed up the whole thing.

well, maybe i will post a gif. after work.

On Aug 14, 2007, at 4:31 PM, Jeffrey D. Gimzek wrote:

>
> On Aug 13, 2007, at 1:42 PM, Andrei Herasimchuk wrote:
>
>> On Aug 13, 2007, at 1:32 PM, kiddfelish at aim.com wrote:
>>
>>> "Align text box labels on the left. Do not right-align labels.
>>> Right-aligned labels produce a ragged left margin, which is hard to
>>> scan."
>>
>> As with most design "rules," this one is inappropriate outside of the
>> context of the problem trying to be solved.
>
> i am dealing with this one now... i occasionally prefer right aligned
> when the label length varies enough to make a horizontal scan over to
> the text field you need to enter data in difficult.
>
> Compare [brackets represent form field] :
>
>
> Your Location: [ type your
> location ]
>
> Your Job Title: [ type your job
> title ]
>
> Your Years of related Work Experience : [type number of years in
> whole numbers ]
>
>
> -- VS. ---
>
> Your Location: [ type your
> location ]
>
> Your Job Title: [ type your job
> title ]
>
> Your Years of related Work Experience : [type number of years in
> whole numbers]
>
>
> it seems to be that the lower example is more usable as you can
> easily visually relate your entry to the label with scanning very far
> to the left.
>
> comments?

--

Jeffrey D. Gimzek
Digital Experience Designer

www.jdgimzek.com
thundercougarfalconbird.blogspot.com

15 Aug 2007 - 4:31am
Stacy Felish
2007

Maybe it's just me,?but I?stick with the principle even though it becomes difficult.?

I prefer avoiding a ragged left edge so much that when I the left run into the problem you mention with longer labels extending the space between a label and a form field,? I usually challenge myself?to overcome this issue.

These are the things I try in resolving the problem:
1 -?revising the text of the long label
2 - placing an example entry text for the form field below or to the right of the field
3 - stacking the label on two lines to keep it close to the form field

I also use a light background color behind forms so that there is good contrast on the form fields and visual grouping of all of form elements.

Hopefully the intent of my post remains clear -- to provide a reference source supporting the desireablity of left aligned text.

Thank you.

Sincerely,
Stacy Felish

-----Original Message-----
From: Jeffrey D. Gimzek <listserv at jdgimzek.com>
To: IxDA Discuss <discuss at lists.interactiondesigners.com>
Sent: Tue, 14 Aug 2007 6:31 pm
Subject: Re: [IxDA Discuss] Req: Reference on readability of centered vs left-justified text

On Aug 13, 2007, at 1:42 PM, Andrei Herasimchuk wrote:

> On Aug 13, 2007, at 1:32 PM, kiddfelish at aim.com wrote:
>
>> "Align text box labels on the left. Do not right-align labels.
>> Right-aligned labels produce a ragged left margin, which is hard to
>> scan."
>
> As with most design "rules," this one is inappropriate outside of the
> context of the problem trying to be solved.

i am dealing with this one now... i occasionally prefer right aligned
when the label length varies enough to make a horizontal scan over to
the text field you need to enter data in difficult.

Compare [brackets represent form field] :

Your Location: [ type your
location ]

Your Job Title: [ type your job
title ]

Your Years of related Work Experience : [type number of years in
whole numbers ]

-- VS. ---

Your Location: [ type your
location ]

Your Job Title: [ type your job
title ]

Your Years of related Work Experience : [type number of years in
whole numbers]

it seems to be that the lower example is more usable as you can
easily visually relate your entry to the label with scanning very far
to the left.

comments?

jd

--

Jeffrey D. Gimzek
Digital Experience Designer

www.jdgimzek.com
thundercougarfalconbird.blogspot.com

________________________________________________________________
Welcome to the Interaction Design Association (IxDA)!
To post to this list ....... discuss at ixda.org
List Guidelines ............ http://beta.ixda.org/guidelines
List Help .................. http://beta.ixda.org/help
Unsubscribe ................ http://beta.ixda.org/unsubscribe
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Home ....................... http://beta.ixda.org

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15 Aug 2007 - 9:20am
Elizabeth Buie
2004

At 10:42 PM -0400 8/14/07, Bryan Minihan wrote:
>I agree with you and prefer right-aligned text when labels of highly
>differing lengths.

As the HFES-200 committee discussed when we were commenting on the ISO 9241
position on this topic, it's also a matter of what the task is.

If people are looking for specific fields, what they need to do quickly is
to find the field of interest. This is aided by left-aligned labels, as
it is easiest to scan the list and pick out the one(s) of interest.

If people are entering information into most or all fields, what they need
to do quickly is to determine the meaning of the next field. This is aided
by right-aligned labels, as it is easiest to look to the left of the current
field and see what label is attached to it.

The ISO standard says that under most conditions the labels should be right
aligned; however, if they have more or less the same length, they *may* be
left aligned.

Elizabeth

15 Aug 2007 - 9:36am
Charles Zicari
2007

Regarding text alignment specific to forms, Luke W. has a nice post on
when to use Left justified, right justified, or labels above fields.
http://www.lukew.com/resources/articles/web_forms.html

But given Paul's original question, it doesn't sound like he's
asking for the purpose of designing forms (I can't imagine a form
with centered text).

Jeff G. posted a couple weeks ago an article that mentioned avoiding
centered text.
http://www.lifehack.org/articles/communication/design-better-with-crap.html

This was based on Robin Williams%u2019 book The Non-Designer%u2019s
Design Book.

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
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