Does typographic choice affect the legibility of short text in digital products?

Common studies and articles show that font structure plays an important role in legibility. With this background, we thought our customer’s present font -Mentone- has some legibility issues and recommended to replace it on digital channels. On the other hand, the customer was not in favor of changing the Mentone on their website since it is the corporate font of the company and they have been using the current font in all its printed and digital products for long years.

The central question then becomes: How much the structure of the font specifically Mentone affect in legibility on a website.? Our main purpose is to evaluate that “Is it worth to change the corporate font on digital channels for legibility?”

“Is it worth to change the corporate font on digital channels for legibility?”

Due to the close deadline of the project, we have conducted a guerilla test to get quick results.

Analyzing existing typography

We began research by analyzing the current font of the company (Mentone)

  • Serif font
  • It has round corners and subtle chamfers. The roundness of the font softens the overall look of texts.
  • This rounded font has a wavy look especially with bold and high puntos because of unequal folds.

It has an unbalanced appearance in general due to the difference between descender height and ascender height. It is now clear what will be our criteria to compare Mentone.

Fonts we clarified for comparison and following the reasoning set

  • Mentone (Current corporate font)
  • Mentone-Open Sans (Our closest suggestion to replace the current font)
  • TT norms-Cera Pro (Alternative suggestion)
  • Times New Roman-Comic sans (Control group)
  • Avenir-Oxygen (Our suggestion)

Why these fonts?

Following the reasoning set forth by geometric harmony, conformity with the new trends, plain font structure, we hypothesize that cleaner font structure increases the legibility.

We have chosen fonts that are high in legibility with large punto in headings while we prefer small fonts that have high legibility below 24 punto in the body part of the text.

We increased the number of stimuli on the page by using different fonts on bodies and headings. By doing so, we aim to increase intertextual noticeability.

Parameters

Most important variables are listed below:

  • Reading time of the text
  • Font score that is given after reading the text by the user
  • Numerical data vs given score

Test participants

Unfortunately, participant profiles are not diverse due to the nature of the guerilla test. They are all white-collar employees between the age of 25–30 to diversify the participator profile and add different perspectives in our research, we tried to contribute participants from different socio-economic backgrounds and occupations.

12 people are conducted on the test.

Bipolar Emotional Response Test

We asked participants to vote for the legibility of typeface from 1 to 10 after reading the texts.

(1 means it was hard to read and tiring; 10 means that it was a comfortable reading experience.)

We noticed that participants who have employed that know about typography have some prejudgements about some fonts. When we compare the control group (Times New Roman-Comic Sans font group) with the others, even the littleness of duration, participants thought that their legibility was low.

On the other hand, the TT Norms-Cera Pro font group has higher scores than the others even though it has long reading durations.

Note: During the test, we have used the font groups shown above. Different contents originated from our customer’s website are given with the same character quantity. Test groups are set to be equal in terms of cognitive load.

To ensure that whole texts are read (this condition has a direct effect on the reading duration), we took some precautions. Questions about the subject are asked the participants at the end of each text. It was not essential to understand their meanings in general. Even so, we thought it would have been a useful method for leading participants to read the whole paragraph.

Finally, we are heading towards the end

The relation between the font scores after bipolar test and the reading durations

What did we learn?

From our point of view, users cannot estimate legibility issues unless there is obvious complexity in the font (like handwriting fonts, floral fonts, kerning issues). On the other hand, participants tend to think that some fonts have low legibility even if they read them in short times.

From our point of view, users cannot estimate legibility issues unless there is obvious complexity in the font (like handwriting fonts, floral fonts, kerning issues). On the other hand, participants tend to think that some fonts have low legibility even if they read them in short times.

As Agency Look, we leave the decision to the designer. This research explores that the selection of font has not so much negative effect on legibility for that length of text.

We should simplify that quantitative data may have certain results but our point is human in the user experience. So, how the design touches is significant as well as how it works.

Final Note

It is worth noting that it is possible to make certain decisions after more detailed researches about this kind of test.

As Agency Look, if we have an idea, we prefer to support it with experiments and observation.

We believe that we gain a lot of new knowledge and experience in this process. As an experience design agency, our curiosity is what keeps us alive and we are determined to nurture this curiosity.

We design experiences for brands, products and services

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