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Re: Readability tests

From: Maurizio Boscarol <maurizio@usabile.it>
Date: Thu, 14 Oct 2004 13:19:54 +0200
Message-ID: <416E60DA.7060702@usabile.it>
To: Gez Lemon <gl@juicystudio.com>
CC: w3c-wai-gl@w3.org

Gez Lemon wrote:

>>What tests for clear writing do you know of Lisa.  Please send thoughts.
>I've implemented a service on Juicy Studio that determines the Gunning Fog
>Index, Flesch Reading Ease, and Flesch-Kincaid Grade of a web document
><http://juicystudio.com/fog/>. I'm not sure of its usefulness (if any) for
>languages other than English, and I'm also not convinced about the
>underlying principles behind the algorithms. The algorithms favour short
>monosyllabic sentences, regardless of whether the sentence makes sense.
>Obviously, it's possible to get a good score with gobbledy-gook, but I've
>had quite a lot of positive feedback about its usefulness. Could make a
>starting point?

I think it is a good starting point to experiment. In fact, we need 
empirical data of this readability indexes usefulness on the web. 
Consider that in a 1999 book of Jared Spool (Web site usability: a 
designer's guide, Morgan  Kaufmann Publishers), he used the Gunning Fog 
Index and the Flesch-Kincaid Grade in web pages and found that:
- the less readable the site was, the more user were successful with the 
- the less readable the site was, the more users found the site clear, 
complete, satisfying and useful.

Yes, just the opposite of what you expect. :) And the opposite of usual 
behavior offline.

The hypotesis is that this is due to different activity users make on a 
web page. Usually they don't read, they skim the page looking for 
something useful. This behavior is explained also in some recent 
"semantic" usability models on the web, like the Pirolli "information 
scent" and Blackmon, Polson and Kitajima "Cognitive walkthrough for the 

Moreover, like you noted, in languages different from english all this 
linguistic tools need to be revalidated.

To have a tool like your may help a lot to experiment further. I'd like 
very much to have such an easy tool to play with in italian language... ;-)

Maurizio Boscarol
Received on Thursday, 14 October 2004 11:19:01 UTC

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