Visual design guidelines for improving learning from dynamic and
interactive digital text
Innovation Center for Engineering Education (#101 Hightech), Inha University, 100 Inharo, Nam-gu, Incheon 402-751, South Korea
Received 11 September 2012
Received in revised form
5 December 2012
Accepted 7 December 2012
Visual design guidelines
Interactive digital text
Despite the dynamic and interactive features of digital text, the visual design guidelines for digital text
are similar to those for printed text. The purpose of this study was to develop visual design guidelines for
improving learning from dynamic and interactive digital text and to validate them by controlled testing.
Two structure design guidelines (for enhancing text structure comprehension) and two selective-
attention design guidelines (for maintaining the learners’ attention on the essential contents) were
developed based on the psychological and instructional, technological foundations that can affect the
visual design of digital text. In this study, a 2 Â 2 factorial design with 141 university students was used
to examine the effectiveness of the visual design guidelines. The university students had 20 min to study
a piece of digital text with the structure design guidelines, selective-attention design guidelines, both, or
no design guidelines applied. Both the structure and selective-attention design guidelines had a positive
inﬂuence on text structure understanding, essential contents comprehension and usability of digital text.
The suggested visual design guidelines were found to be useful for enhancing text comprehension.
Ó 2012 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.
As learning from in web-based environments is being used increasingly, it has become more important to determine how to visually
design digital text to support student learning. Digital text can contain a range of multimedia, such as text, graphics, movie clips and audio
components. The present study covers only text.
Digital text has interactive and dynamic advantages in utilizing web technologies, and there is a similarity of the basic cognitive process
associated with reading digital and traditional text (Shapiro & Niederhauser, 2004). Nevertheless, students sometimes have difﬁculties in
learning from digital text, such as i) difﬁculties in understanding the text structure or recognizing where readers are in the digital text
(Dillon & Jobst, 2005; Sung & Mayer, 2012), and ii) difﬁculties in focusing on important materials (Loman & Mayer, 1983).
A range of visual design principles and guidelines have been suggested to help the student comprehend the structure and recognize the
important information in digital text (Aspillaga, 1996; Chen & Rada, 1996; Galitz, 2007; Grabinger, 1989; Hartly, 1985; Jonassen & Wang,
1993; Lohr, 2003; Lorch, 1989). Most of these visual design principles and guidelines of digital text are grounded in them of printed text
(Rieber & Welliver, 1989; Shapiro & Niederhauser, 2004) because of the comparable basic reading processes (Wenger & Payne, 1996).
Therefore, most text design guidelines for digital text are guided by the design of the static textual component, even though web technology
has the capability of dynamicity and interactivity (Park & Hannaﬁn, 1993). In other words, there has been insufﬁcient research on the visual
design guidelines of dynamic and interactive digital text and little empirical work has been reported in this area.
The aim of this study was to develop and validate visual design guidelines for dynamic and interactive digital text to enhance students’
comprehension of the structure and recognition of the essential contents. Furthermore, experiments were conducted to determine if the
students comprehended the structure and important materials with digital text better when they learned from the digital text designed
according to the dynamic and interactive visual design guidelines.
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Computers & Education
journal homepage: www.elsevier.com/locate/compedu
0360-1315/$ – see front matter Ó 2012 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.
Computers & Education 63 (2013) 248–258