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GUI Graphics Software

Do Zebra Stripes Actually Help? 234

Posted by timothy
from the they-seem-to-help-the-zebras dept.
RyoShin writes "A List Apart, an excellent resource for web development and related aesthetics, has put together an article based on original research by Jessica Enders into 'zebra striping.' From the article: 'Zebra striping [coloring alternate rows] is used when data is presented in an essentially tabular form. The user of that table will be looking for one or more data points. Their aim is to get the right points and get them as quickly as possible. Therefore, if we set a task that uses a table, and zebra striping does make things easier, then we would expect to see improvements in two things: accuracy and speed.' The conclusion of the peer reviewed paper? It's a wash. Striped tables offered only a slight increase in accuracy and speed overall. The article notes a few other benefits to using Zebra striping, so it's all up to the individual."
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Do Zebra Stripes Actually Help?

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  • It looks nice (Score:3, Interesting)

    by dintech (998802) on Tuesday May 06, 2008 @10:36AM (#23311870)
    Although it might not provide much extra accuracy, it does make for a nicer looking GUI. That counts for something in todays widget driven environment...
    • Re:It looks nice (Score:5, Informative)

      by couchslug (175151) on Tuesday May 06, 2008 @10:40AM (#23311932)
      If your are PRINTING a checklist for use outdoors, at night, etc striped tables IMO work MUCH better for checklists. In the Air Force we used them for generation checklists (scan down task lists at the side vs tail
      numbers at the top) to fill in times.
      • Re:It looks nice (Score:5, Insightful)

        by holophrastic (221104) on Tuesday May 06, 2008 @10:46AM (#23312028)
        Personally, I think that they are done best when striped in sets of three, makes following the line even easier. But that's not my point. Apparently the article says that it offers only minor improvements in accuracy and speed. That's not a wash, that's a minor improvement. Considering the virtually no effort to achieve the minor improvement, I'd call that a significant benefit.
        • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

          by Anonymous Coward
          Actually, I tend to use sets of 5, if the table's big enough. It's very easy to see that your in the second row/column from the edge of the stripe.

          Also, if the table gets really big, and it's difficult to identify where you are in the table, I start alternating between sets of 5 and sets of three - usually 5/5/3. Again, this seems to help (At least it helps me) with visual placement.

          IIRC I first saw this in the AD&D manuals, except they always alternated 1/3 or 3/5 on single-page tables, which made it
        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by MythoBeast (54294)
          I'm in agreement with the parent post. Highlighting every other line doesn't actually produce much difference between the highlighted lines and the unhighlighted ones. There's a minor difference between the two, and you can double check to the front of the line that you're looking at a line of the right color, but the regular spacing between the two actually eliminates the ability to use the striping as a horizontal guide for the eye.

          Shading in every third line actually provides the eye a stronger guideli
          • Yeah, that point being that things can be done incorrectly, agreed.
          • Re:It looks nice (Score:5, Insightful)

            by ShieldW0lf (601553) on Tuesday May 06, 2008 @12:17PM (#23313210) Journal
            It seems that way, doesn't it?

            Zebra striping becomes more useful the further apart the key row is from the data in the row. It also becomes more important if there are no lines between the rows and columns. It's practically essential when you're trying to view a wide table where the key must be scrolled off screen to view the pertinent data.

            In this study, the key row was the tolerance in grams, and the data was the factory outlet boolean. They were an inch and a half apart from each other, and there was no necessity to interpret multiple values in a row, but only vertically scan the key column and test for the existence of a row that has yes in the factory outlet column right next to it.

            These people are spreading misinformation. The study was so contrived to support the premise, and so consciously avoidant of the actual situations where zebra striping becomes useful, that it's difficult to believe it wasn't intentionally done. If nothing else, there was far, far too little study done to make any conclusion whatsoever.

            Whoever is behind article this should be working at MacDonalds.
    • Re:It looks nice (Score:5, Insightful)

      by kent_eh (543303) on Tuesday May 06, 2008 @10:50AM (#23312068)
      Still, a slight improvement is still an improvement.
      Isn't an improvement in accuracy is better than no improvement, or a decrease?
      • by teslar (706653)

        Still, a slight improvement is still an improvement.
        .
        But it's not an improvement. The difference was not statistically significant, so for all we know, it might simply have been due to chance.
      • Isn't an improvement in accuracy is better than no improvement, or a decrease?
        The summary is mistaken. This study found no statistically significant difference between accuracy in reading the two table types. A "slight improvement" is no improvement when it is not larger than what is expected by chance.
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      Okay, saying it's a wash is absolute bullocks. The difference was small, but it was there. When you're an end user, do you want the designer to say, "screw it, it's only a few percentage points," or do you want them to do everything they can to make it easier?

      Most UI differences are small; the difference between having the task bar in the middle of the screen and on the edge of the screen is very small as well, but that doesn't make it not worth doing.
      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by Anonymous Coward
        The difference is small for a half-assed 9 column table with lots of visual clues like they prepared. Try a real table in small print without alternating text entries and with narrow spacing. The difference will be enormous.
    • Re:It looks nice (Score:4, Insightful)

      by abolitiontheory (1138999) on Tuesday May 06, 2008 @10:55AM (#23312120)
      Exactly. Is the improvement in "accuracy and efficency" really the only goal? What about a more pleasurable user experience, reduced stress or sense of fatigue, etc? Essentially, any time we treat humans like machines we miss a huge part of the equation. If a humans overall comfort level is increased, as long as it is not in a way which directly detracts from the work they are performing (alcohol comes to mind), they're almost guarunteed to be more productive and committed in the long term. This is the same reason we buy fancy coffee for drastically overmarked prices, instead of the dollar cup from BlowJoe Coffee. Aesthetic and experience matter, and if there are no marked *decreases* in efficiency due to table striping, then I'll do it every day of the week.
  • by Rik Sweeney (471717) on Tuesday May 06, 2008 @10:38AM (#23311892) Homepage
    Yes, much in the same way that Go Faster Stripes work...
    • by Thanshin (1188877) on Tuesday May 06, 2008 @10:49AM (#23312056)
      The other option is Red. Red is always faster.

      The now extinct Red Go Faster Striped Zebras easily outran cheetahs. They didn't actually go extinct; they just migrated so fast, time stopped for them.
      • by The Queen (56621)
        There is a nugget of wisdom hiding in your joke. All designers (and most laymen) realize the impact of the color red. Using that in a table to help certain figures stand out more is a no-brainer.

        Red as one of the colors used in a zebra-stripe, however, is a big no-no. Red is only useful in small doses.
        • by WhiplashII (542766) on Tuesday May 06, 2008 @11:47AM (#23312822) Homepage Journal
          Except...

          Please remember that some of us are colorblind!

          (I was trying to start the "Meet the Robinsons" Blue Ray disk the other day, and couldn't find the "Play" option. It seems some genius over there made the text green on white, and therefor invisible to me...)
          • What about white on green?
            • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

              by WhiplashII (542766)
              Heh, my family keeps making fun of me because when I was teaching my daughter to safely cross the street at intersections, I told her to look at the "green guy". Apparently although the traffic light is green, the little guy is white - who knew?

              Also, I can never move to Texas. The rest of the country has vertical traffic lights, but not Texas. It is bad enough to choose red and green as the stop and go colors, with the full knowledge that a large percentage of the population can't see them - it is a trav
          • by Palshife (60519) on Tuesday May 06, 2008 @12:37PM (#23313474) Homepage

            green on white, and therefor invisible to me...
            Good God, how do you read Slashdot?!
          • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

            by edalytical (671270)

            That's why DVD menus in all incarnations shouldn't exist! I can imagine how frustrating that can be, I've had problems using DVD menus and I'm not color blind. I've also had to sit though a class were a professor was trying to show a clip from a DVD, but the DVD menu designer didn't make the highlight color contrast enough for a projector, needless to say a lot of time was wasted while the professor tried to guess when the correct item was selected.

            I really hate DVD menus. At the very least make them

      • by Chris Burke (6130)
        The other option is Red. Red is always faster.

        The now extinct Red Go Faster Striped Zebras easily outran cheetahs. They didn't actually go extinct; they just migrated so fast, time stopped for them.


        The Red Go Faster Striped Zebras weren't actually red, they just ran away so fast that they appeared so.

        The closely related Blue Go Faster Striped Zebras were equally fast, but they would always run towards predators.

        The Blue Zebras really did go extinct, as one would expect.
    • by lesinator (459276)
      My tables go faster with speed holes.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday May 06, 2008 @10:39AM (#23311912)
    Finding data in nine columns with alternating text and numbers is easy. Try upping the number of columns, using only numbers, use close spacing, and reduce the text size. Then you will see a difference. This experiment is flawed because they didn't test how the values scale with more columns and less helpful clues (like the differences between text and spacing in their sample table). This article should have been rejected for not taking into account these issues.
    • The premise of this article is that zebra striping is to aid people finding the data they are looking for faster. I think that is not as much the case as it is to help people keep track of the data once they have found it.

      They noted that when people found the row they were looking for they usually highlighted that row somehow, either with a mouse select or using their own finger on the screen. This is what I think the main usefulness of zebra striping is: to help the user to visually keep track of the da

    • Finding data in nine columns with alternating text and numbers is easy.

      To expand on that idea, does the utility of a green-bar table expand as the table gets wider, either with more columns or wider columns? The sample table was a nice starting point, but by no means adequate to settle to the issue.

      BTW, the accuracy of the answers was higher with the stripped report in each case! The difference was small (1%) in each case, but direction was consistent.

      But the real junk comes in reporting the time

    • That just limits the applicability of the results. It's not flawed, just short-sighted.

      Also, the end of the article says they are planning to conduct a follow-up study to answer questions raised by this first round. Your criticism may well be addressed in that.

      Another possible criticism is the fact that the participants apparently know the point of the study (at least in the case of the follow-up, which is linked to from the article). Could this affect the results? I wouldn't tend to think so, but per
  • by davidwr (791652) on Tuesday May 06, 2008 @10:39AM (#23311916) Homepage Journal
    I don't have a study to prove it, but coloring or otherwise marking every Nth row, where n is a smallish number, say 2-5, helps.

    Anyone else remember fanfold wide-format computer paper that was colored white and green in alternating blocks of 3 rows each?
    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward
      3 rows is the most you should go when striping. That makes every row distinctive -- it's either unbordered, bordered on top or on bottom.

      Don't try 2-row striping -- for some reason it just looks wrong, like each pair is supposed to be related. Probably because it's just less common.

      • Don't try 2-row striping -- for some reason it just looks wrong, like each pair is supposed to be related. Probably because it's just less common.
        Probably because the headings in tables are usually on a darker background (or for example, see the subject in every /. comment), so our brains kind of associate darker backgrounds with 'title' or 'important'?
    • by rubycodez (864176) on Tuesday May 06, 2008 @10:54AM (#23312096)
      it's called green bar paper, and it's still used, young jedi.
      • I have to note that on any printer supported by postscript or ghostscript, Emacs can print your code in language sensitive colors, on emacs generated "greybar" in multiple columns, in landscape or portrait and with line numbers.

        On the rare occasions I print code out, boy does Emacs and Xemacs rock.
    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by boris111 (837756)
      It's a fond memory actually from growing up in the 80's. When I was young brat my dad would bring those home with him to look them over. He'd also bring left over print outs for us to draw on. I remember they had a strange smell. He also brought home old punch cards for the same purpose.
  • if you get run over at a zebra crossing you'll be easier to see whether you are black or white.
  • I personally hate when long tables/lists aren't zebra striped. If the type is smaller than 10 point or so, I REALLY need this.
  • Yes and No. (Score:4, Insightful)

    by LWATCDR (28044) on Tuesday May 06, 2008 @10:41AM (#23311950) Homepage Journal
    It depends on the program displaying the data. Some programs allow you to to click on the row and get that one row highlighted. That is a huge help. Others like tables on a web page don't allow that. In that case I say it does help.
    Also the size of the table makes a difference.

    • Re:Yes and No. (Score:5, Informative)

      by WhiteDragon (4556) on Tuesday May 06, 2008 @11:04AM (#23312260) Homepage Journal

      It depends on the program displaying the data. Some programs allow you to to click on the row and get that one row highlighted. That is a huge help. Others like tables on a web page don't allow that. In that case I say it does help.
      In Firefox, when looking at html tables, you can hold down ctrl and select the row. I find this to be fairly helpful.
  • by jakesher (546070) on Tuesday May 06, 2008 @10:42AM (#23311968)
    is irrelevant.
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by raddan (519638)
      Good point, and here's another: her tables are not nearly large enough. I'd like to see the author add a "scale" component to her study. Striping on small tables may have a negligible benefit, but on large tables, I think you'll see something significant. Maybe the obviousness of this benefit is lost on people now that we have fast computers-- after all, a fast computer can look up table data (or heck, compute it directly) a lot faster than you can, so I expect that really big tables aren't so common any
    • by D-Cypell (446534) *
      Spot on!

      It is a little like shrinking the text on your browser, for the first couple of 'notches', there will probably be very little difference in the speed and accuracy of reading for anyone with a reasonable level of eyesite. However, a couple of hours reading at a size you are uncomfortable with and pretty soon the fatigue, frustration and irritation will set it, effects that we refer to collectively as 'stress'.

      I could probably carry 10kgs for 20 metres in a very similar time to 1kgs, speed may not be
  • by truthsearch (249536) on Tuesday May 06, 2008 @10:43AM (#23311974) Homepage Journal
    On narrow tables they don't make a difference. But on wide tables they're almost a necessity. Without any table cell borders, like a spreadsheet, or striping, the eye easily wanders up or down into another row when reading across. I can say anecdotally that I'm far more accurate and faster when reading a table with stripes.

    Either way, they certainly can't hurt, especially if they're a pale color. So why are we even having this discussion?
  • Of course they help. They let us know where it's legal to cross the street.
  • Bad example (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Cowtard (573891) on Tuesday May 06, 2008 @10:44AM (#23311996)
    So they conclude it doesn't help (though their own data says that it does, even though it's slight) based on THAT table? Maybe they should try it again with a zebra striped table where the difference between the colors used is slightly more pronounced. I don't know about the rest here but I personally think I had a harder time with that because the color difference between rows was so slight than if they had left out the color. Played tricks on my eyes.
    • I agree. I think it is made even worse by the fact that there is very little contrast difference between the text and the zebra stripe. My personal preference has always been for a baby blue, but they used grey instead. I guess they were trying to simulate black and white newspaper print, but who uses that anymore?
    • by RyoShin (610051)
      I wondered about that, too. I didn't even notice the stripes until I saw the caption for the image, then had to look back up.

      For quick swapping you only want to deal with the background, not the foreground, and so you have to consistently use light or dark colors so that the text doesn't disappear. Working around this is almost trivial, though, especially when using CSS and classes.

      And, as another user said, stripes really become useful when you have large spans of columns to go through. I'd be intereste
      • by anss123 (985305)
        I just did that study and there's only vertical scrolling. I think you need horizontal scrolling for it to make a difference.
    • by fsmunoz (267297)
      Are you using a laptop? Because I share your opinion, but that's only when looking directly at my laptop screen... if I lay down the screen a bit the contrast becomes *much* more noticeable... the dark grey appears almost white when I look at it directly.

      This is not the first time I have noticed that laptops suck for this kind of thing though.
  • by sloth jr (88200) on Tuesday May 06, 2008 @10:45AM (#23312008)
    If zebra striping doesn't actually make it easier to identify which cells actually belong to a given row - maybe a rethink of what is trying to be accomplished here could help. Perhaps highlighting of the row under the cursor?

    sloth jr
    • by barzok (26681)
      I find highlighting the row under the cursor is more helpful than making the whole table a zebra.

      Or a combination - zebra-stripe the table, then make the "hovered" row a 3rd color
    • by mgblst (80109)
      I think we already have several solutions to this problems, and I would like to herald the websites who choose to put each line of data on a different webpage. No miscommunication there...
    • If zebra striping doesn't actually make it easier to identify which cells actually belong to a given row - maybe a rethink of what is trying to be accomplished here could help. Perhaps highlighting of the row under the cursor?

      I'd mod you up if I had some points.

      I've worked for a reasonably large company and designed a web app that was potentially to be used by several thousand different people (by the time I left, about eight hundred did). So, I've done some rather amateurish usability testing by observing what people actually do when reading tabular data.

      Over 60% of my test subjects used the mouse to scan a table (a striped one, obviously). They would move the pointer to the first column, and then slide it to the right until t

  • by LighterShadeOfBlack (1011407) on Tuesday May 06, 2008 @10:45AM (#23312010) Homepage
    Study conducted of whether long-held belief has real benefits. Conclusion: Maybe a little.

    News at 11.
  • The more columns/complex the table Zebra striping will help the user not lose their place. But, this needs to be balanced with the length of the table. After a while they will forget which line they're on regardless of formatting.
    That's why I'm a fan of showing the least amount of data I can. More complex = more chance for errors. Drill down application are a pain, but, better than a mistake in payroll.
  • I love it (Score:5, Funny)

    by krog (25663) on Tuesday May 06, 2008 @10:52AM (#23312082) Homepage
    That's why I still print out web pages on greenbar before reading them.
  • The answer is: Yes, they do!

    Well, that was fun.
  • by BytePusher (209961) on Tuesday May 06, 2008 @10:55AM (#23312116) Homepage
    I can tell you why it didn't help. They formatted their table with large spaces between columns and they had only 9 rows. If they tried the same study where they also varied the number of rows I am sure they would find that as the rows increase the positive effect of zebra striping increases. It seems they had a bias built into their test in order to find something unexpected... otherwise the study would have proved pointless.

    I can see the Slashdot headline now, "A practice used for over half a century still proves to be useful!" Somehow, I think such a headline falls under the category of "not news."
    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by BytePusher (209961)
      correction: switch rows with columns in my post.

      I can tell you why it didn't help. They formatted their table with large spaces between columns and they had only 9 columns. If they tried the same study where they also varied the number of columns I am sure they would find that as the columns increase the positive effect of zebra striping increases. It seems they had a bias built into their test in order to find something unexpected... otherwise the study would have proved pointless. I can see the Slashdot headline now, "A practice used for over half a century still proves to be useful!" Somehow, I think such a headline falls under the category of "not news."

    • by Kijori (897770)
      The highlighting is also barely noticeable! When I looked at the example I originally thought it was going to be the "no stripes" control because it was so difficult to see the stripes.
  • by archeopterix (594938) on Tuesday May 06, 2008 @10:56AM (#23312132) Journal
    I see a problem with the experiment. The hard part of the questions involves scanning down a column , where horizontal striping obviously does not help.
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by hyfe (641811)
      Heh, that's I really good point.

      I thought it was self-evidentary that stripes should run the same way you're most likely to scan.. so you don't have to work too hard to keep your eyesight on the same line. Apparently it wasn't that evident though.

      That said, zebra-stripes are nice when you choose good colours, and have them run in the direction they're supposed to.. and they're really horrible when you screw up.. as a lot of people do.

    • Another problem (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Selanit (192811)
      In addition to that excellent point, I'm skeptical about the way the table was designed. There's an image of the table here:

      http://alistapart.com/d/zebrastripingdoesithelp/data-table.png [alistapart.com]

      The "ordinary" rows have a background color of pure white. The "striped" rows have a background color of #F5F5F5, a very light grey. I'm all in favor of subtle design, but there is such a thing as being too subtle.

      Perhaps the stripes did not help noticeably because there was insufficient contrast between the rows?
      • by slittle (4150)
        It's only pale grey at 6500K. Set your monitor to 7500K or more and it looks more like a girly shade of purple (lavender).
  • by elwinc (663074) on Tuesday May 06, 2008 @11:03AM (#23312228)
    The experimental design is good, and I'm glad the experiment was done, but the conclusion of the paper is that there's not enough data to answer the question!

    There may be an effect, but if so, it's small enough that 281 experimental subjects and six questions are not enough to yield statistically significant results. That result alone (that the effect is small at best) makes the paper worthwhile to me. One small quibble: on a web page, I can often use scrolling and the bottom or top of the page to check alignment on a wide table. Maybe zebra stripes are more useful on paper.

    But before I give up entirely on zebra stripes, I'd like to see what happens when [1] the table is made wider; [2] the table is made taller; [3] the zebra stripes are 2 or 3 rows wide instead of 1; [4] the stripes are made darker and/or a different color.

    C'mon people who want publications, there are lots of other things to try here.

  • by blind biker (1066130) on Tuesday May 06, 2008 @11:05AM (#23312272) Journal
    Nystagmus is a condition where your eyes oscillate at a frequency of about 1 Hz (roughly), usually horizontally. Having rows and especially columns coloured differently helps very much for someone affected by Nystagmus, to distinguish between columns.

    BTW, a wider font like Verdana is also highly recommended.
  • by Animaether (411575) on Tuesday May 06, 2008 @11:06AM (#23312286) Journal
    I'll get the wtf out of the way first
    "Given that applying zebra striping in an electronic medium is a nontrivial task"

    Say what? Any application that is based on columns and/or rows has trivial access to those columns/rows as separate entities. Markup for such columns/rows is easily changed. 'mod N 2 == 0? grey:white' is hardly nontrivial, it's so basic that if you can't manage to do it, you must be using the wrong software.

    ---

    Now for the scope - it seems like the only research they have done is when data in the sheet is dense and the sheet itself is not all that wide.

    Now try with a wide sheet and instead of every 'cell' or at least one of its close neighbors having data in it, imagine lots of empty cells. Now try and see if zebrastriping helps or not. I can guarantee you that without any visual cues, your lining up of something in the leftmost column to the same line on the rightmost column is going to fail far more often than you'd like.

    --

    Oh wait, they even admit as much:
    "However, there is clearly a need for additional studies to investigate how task difficulty and the size of the table/form influence the effect of zebra striping."

    No shit. I'm glad you admitted that your sample size is too low.
  • by methano (519830)
    I thought this article was going to be about the evolutionary advantage that stripes give zebras, not spreadsheets. Who cares about spreadsheets, what about the zebras?
  • In the example she used in the test, all the cells are divided by black lines, the zebra striping is very faint, and the table is narrow. It's not a surprise she didn't see much difference, the experiment looks like it was almost designed to come up with that result.

    If she tried it again without the black lines dividing the cells, with less faint stripes and with a wider table, she would have come up with a very different result.
  • Zuba's!!! (Score:2, Funny)

    by joe$007 (671878)
    The stripes helped my Zuba's look cool.
  • http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dazzle_camouflage [wikipedia.org]

    I think zebra striping helps people read tables with more than four columns, but there's also a camouflage effect especially when a quick glance is given.
  • ... when they came up with that conclusion of 'a wash'.

    They expected an improvement and they got an improvement AND there were other benefits as well.

    Now what would be interesting is if colour would be of importance and what contrast would be the best and if the test must be on the lines or not.

    What about dual lines? Tripple lines?
  • Zebras aren't bras for especially well-endowed women.

    But are real zebras white horses with black stripes, or black horses with white strips? Yes there is a correct answer to this.

  • by bperkins (12056) on Tuesday May 06, 2008 @11:21AM (#23312482) Homepage Journal
    Perhaps I'm being a bit pedantic, but am I the only one that thought some of the questions were oddly worded?

    Here's what I view as correct answers:

    Q What is the name of the screw that costs $35.66?

    A: None. The M28 screw costs $35.66 per 50.

    Q There are 664 screws of which minor diameter tolerance?

    A: None. The M18 Screw has a minor diameter tolerance of 8g, and there are 664 of those, but there are 1442 screws with a tolerance of 8g.

    Q: There are 292 screws of what thread pitch?

    A: None. There are 292 M16 screws which have a thread pitch of 2mm, but there are 527 screws with a thread pitch of 2mm.

  • How exactly to they justify their results when they clearly admit this

    It is also important to note that a few participants spontaneously reported that they used their finger, on or over the computer screen, to follow down columns and across rows. Other participants used their mouse to highlight rows of interest, in effect creating their own 'temporary zebra striping'.

    When the participants violate the very precepts of the study by creating their own striping, the study become ridiculous. It's like doing a study if walking is slower than biking, and the walkers are allowed to bring their own bikes.

    But the study itself is great, I just disagree with the conclusion, it seems to show that striping is SO useful that when denied striping, people create their own.

    • You can violate almost any principle of design and show that for small data sets under lab conditions that principle doesn't contribute much to usability. For the dataset in question, you probably could misalign the columns and rows, then display them in six point type and there wouldn't be much difference in speed or accuracy.

      The study gives a baseline result that is entirely credible: for small static datasets and a small number of questions, a non-fatigued subject population manages to get through a sho

  • The way I see it, this person obviously wanted to prove that candy striping doesn't help because they personally don't like it. Candy striping isn't supposed to be a miracle fix that no one can live without...if it were all books would come candy striped. What it helps with are applications where users what to scan for specific information fast, not ones where people are trying to read them as books.

    The reason it works is more physical than it is psychological. It helps your eyes read in a straight, hori
  • I've been waiting for the chance to use this one:

    Now it is such a bizarrely improbable coincidence that anything so mind-bog-gglingly useful [the Babelfish] could have evolved purely by chance that some thinkers have chosen to see it as the final and clinching proof of the non-existence of God. The argument goes something like this:
    "I refuse to prove that I exist," says God, "for proof denies faith, and without faith I am nothing."
    "But," says Man, "The Babel fish is a dead giveaway, isn't it? It could no

  • Follow-up Survey (Score:3, Interesting)

    by RyoShin (610051) <tukaro@gmaBOYSENil.com minus berry> on Tuesday May 06, 2008 @11:43AM (#23312768) Homepage Journal
    If you didn't like how they ran this test (and I agree with most of the complaints), A List Apart is running a follow-up survey over the internet. I almost missed this, as it isn't mentioned until the very end of the article.

    You can find it at http://surveys.formulate.com.au/dtfu [formulate.com.au]. It takes about three-five minutes. I just took it, and they appear to be using darker row colors now. It's still too narrow to see how useful it is when you have to scroll horizontally, but it's a small improvement at least.
  • I see this in business all the time.

    It's only a 1% difference so they cut it.
    And they cut 15 other 1% things.

    And the result is a cardboard tomato, a useless piece of software, an inferior product.

    It is the 80/20 rule defined. You spend 80% of your time on 20% of the product to get a good product.

    The result of their attitude is a product that is 80% as good as what you really wanted and needed.
  • This is one of those things that you don't really NEED to test scientifically, at least in my opinion. Maybe looking at a zebra striped table is only marginally, if at all faster or more accurate, but I find it sure as hell is a lot more pleasant. Picking out data on a large unstriped table (small font for extra suckage points) just takes more concentration, regardless of whether it's slower. My opinion at least.
  • I am willing to bet that 2-to-1 striping (white-white-grey) is even more efficient than 1-to-1 striping (white-grey). Why does this study ignore this? Its an "obvious" option...
  • Failure to demonstrate a statistically significant improvement in accuracy is not the same as absence of such an improvement. For example, you can fail to demonstrate a significant improvement simply by making the sample size small enough or making the measurements noisier. In fact, I can pretty much guarantee that if you make the sample large enough, you will find a statistically significant difference; whether there is a statistically significant difference simply isn't the right question to ask. The r
  • whoa, even worse (Score:5, Insightful)

    by nguy (1207026) on Tuesday May 06, 2008 @12:29PM (#23313382)
    Apart from the just plain wrong statistical reasoning, the experiment was done under uncontrolled conditions over the Internet. The sample table in the article actually had lines separating the columns and rows. Geez, with that, it's not surprising that the author finds no differences!

    Zebra striping may or may not help significantly, but this paper won't tell you either way.
  • You could alternate the fonts instead of zebra striping.
    Say a serif vs a non-serif font.
    Bold vs non-bold.
    Italic vs non-italic.

    So you could have every other row be bold and every other column be italic.
  • ... and here I thought the ID crowd was claiming a zebra's stripes provide no survival benefit and therefore are clear evidence of an Intelligent Interior Designer.
  • Won't zebra stripes make tables more vulnerable to attacks by hungry lions?

  • Did anyone besides me think the question in the title was about actual zebras and whether their stripes were an effective camouflage?

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