Learning efficiency with text, pictures and animation in on-line help

P.H. Westendorp

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

1 Citation (Scopus)


To test the relative efficiency and learning effect of text, pictures, and animation in on-line help systems, six versions of an on-line help system for telephones were designed. The operational information was presented in either text, pictures, or animation and presented either with or without spatial information (in pictures). Subjects were asked to perform thirteen tasks, using these six versions of the instructions and to do the same tasks again, using the same version of the instructions, one week later. The results show that only presenting the operational information via text is the most efficient. Subjects using instructions in animation needed significantly more time than those using the text or picture versions. Adding spatial information (in pictures) was counterproductive: without this information subjects performed better in all versions. Performing the same tasks with identical instructions one week later produced the same results, but the differences were much smaller. Therefore, it has been concluded that text remains the most efficient medium as long as users have to apply the instructions immediately. If the time needed to read/see the instructions is deducted, animation turns out to be the most efficient medium. It is therefore concluded that animation could be the best medium for learning how to operate a device.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)401-417
Number of pages17
JournalJournal of Technical Writing and Communication
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - 1996


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