Presenting information on the small-screen interface: Effects of table formatting


This study explored strengths and limitations of table formatting choices by engaging twenty-eight participants in information searches in online tables, presented on a small-screen interface (Palm IIIc). Table length across conditions was held constant at three screens long (24 rows total) but varied from one to three screens wide (approximately 35, 70, and 105 characters per line). Target information was positioned in either the upper left, lower left, upper right, or lower right quadrants. Data collected were time on task, error rate, and level of participants' confidence in their answers. Experimenters found that increased horizontal scrolling imposed the heaviest burden on information search. This study supports restricting table widths to one screen on handheld computers. If necessary, however, tables can go to two screens wide without critical detriment to usability. While ruled line formatting is slightly better than interface character in providing visual support for the burden of horizontal scrolling, neither formatting option adequately compensates for the added burden.

Publication Title

IEEE Transactions on Professional Communication