Is visual content in textual search interfaces beneficial to dyslexic users?

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle


Dyslexia is a learning disability characterised by problems with accurate or fluent word recognition, poor decoding, and poor spelling abilities. Although several studies have addressed dyslexia and Web accessibility, less is known about how dyslexia affects information search. This study investigated whether the inclusion of icons in search user interfaces enhances performance among dyslexics. A total of 21 dyslexics and 21 controls completed 52 search tasks in 4 conditions: icons only, words only, and both icons and words in a grid layout and a list layout, while eye movements were recorded. Dyslexics took significantly longer than controls to locate targets in tasks containing text, but not in the icon-only condition. Dyslexics had longer fixation durations than controls in both icon and text based search arrays, suggesting higher mental load associated with search tasks generally. The addition of words to icon arrays led to faster search times within controls, but not dyslexics. Dyslexics also exhibited more fixations on dual-modality tasks, and longer scanpaths than controls in list layout. Both groups were fastest searching the list layout, with icons and words listed in columns. Results are discussed in terms of the design of accessible search interfaces for dyslexic users, taking into account mental load of dual-modality information display, and the arrangement of search items. Empirical data is provided for the design of accessible search results interfaces for dyslexics.


  • Gerd Berget
  • Fiona Mulvey
  • Frode Eika Sandnes
External organisations
  • Oslo and Akershus University College
  • Westerdals Oslo School of Arts, Communication and Technology
Research areas and keywords

Subject classification (UKÄ) – MANDATORY

  • Human Computer Interaction
  • Psychology (excluding Applied Psychology)


  • Dyslexia, Eye-tracking, Information search behavior, Search user interfaces, Universal design, Visual search
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)17-29
Number of pages13
JournalInternational Journal of Human Computer Studies
Publication statusPublished - 2016 Aug 1
Publication categoryResearch

Related activities

Frode Eika Sandnes (First/primary/lead supervisor), Fiona Mulvey (Second supervisor)

Activity: Examination and supervisionSupervision of PhD students

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