This study investigates the importance of text width and passive white space on comprehension, speed of reading and user satisfaction for text displayed on the monitor of a personal computer. Thirteen subjects were tested with 8 different text widths and white space or no white space, 16 conditions in all. The results showed no relationships between the different text widths and white space for reading speed and comprehension but a significant relationship for satisfaction was found. The results suggest that individual differences in reading abilities are more important to reading speed and comprehension than text formats. However for maximum user satisfaction, text should have margins and be between 3 and 5 inches in width. Guidelines based on studies of print media may not be entirely applicable to computer displays. Future studies should investigate longer text passages and interactive help.
Comber, T 1994, 'The importance of text width and white space for online documentation', BAppSc (Hons) thesis, Southern Cross University, Coffs Harbour, NSW.