of the guidelines
The need for best practice guidelines for the design of electronic textbooks
arose from the growing availability of learning and teaching material
for Higher Education in electronic format, to which students are increasingly
turning as a first port of call when seeking material to support their
studies. With initiatives such as the National Grid for Learning and
The People's Network improving the flow of online material, it is timely
to pay attention to the internal design of the resources themselves
so that, once accessed, the required data can be retrieved as quickly
and easily as possible.
other sets of guidelines exist for designing electronic resources (e.g.
Jakob Nielsen's Designing Web Usability and Peter Muller's Writing
Hypertext Books). EBONI's Electronic Textbook Design Guidelines,
however, provide advice on preparing material for a specific audience
of academics and students in Higher Education, and incorporate this
audience's special requirements. As such, they are of use to:
and publishers of scholarly digital information
which invest in the creation of scholarly digital resources
book hardware and software developers
and services involved in the digitisation of learning and teaching
on-screen design guidelines are primarily intended to be applied to
books published on the Web, but the principles will be relevant to ebooks
of all descriptions and, in certain cases (e.g. Guideline
16: Provide bookmarking, highlighting and annotating functions),
it is possible that only commercial ebook software companies will have
the resources to comply at their disposal. They simply reflect the results
of our user evaluations, and it is recognised that they will be implemented
at different levels by different content developers.
is important to note that the guidelines are not intended to establish
a strict uniformity of interface for all electronic learning and teaching
resources, but rather to encourage use of those styles and techniques
which are most successful in terms of usability.
should also be emphasised that this version of the guidelines is a draft
and does not include feedback from the later stages of the project.
A revised set will be produced incorporating these data as well as feedback
from creators of digital content on various aspects of the guidelines.
The guidelines have been formed as a result of extensive evaluations
of electronic books involving around 100 students, lecturers and researchers
from a range of disciplines in UK Higher Education. These include:
Book experiment, which focused on the impact of appearance on the
usability of textbooks on the Web. Two electronic versions of the
same chapter, one in a very plain scrolling format, the other made
more "scannable" according to John Morkes and Jakob Nielsen's
Web design guidelines, were selected as the material for evaluation,
and the scannable text proved to be 92% more usable.
of three textbooks in psychology, all of which have been published
on the Internet by their authors and are available free of charge.
These textbooks differ markedly in their appearance, and the study
aimed to find which styles and techniques are most effective in enabling
students to find the information they require, and to record students'
subjective satisfaction with each book.
in Context by Cliff McKnight, Andrew Dillon and John Richardson.
This textbook was compared in three formats: print, the original electronic
version on the Web, and a second
electronic version, revised according to Morkes and Nielsen's
scannability guidelines. Experiment conducted by Joan Dunn.
of three electronic encyclopaedias: Encyclopaedia
Britannica, The Columbia
Encyclopaedia and Encarta.
Experiment conducted by Julie Shortreed.
of a title in geography (New Frontiers of Space, Bodies and Gender
by Rosa Ainley) which is available in three electronic formats: MobiPocket
Acrobat Ebook Reader and Microsoft
into usability issues surrounding portable electronic books. Five
devices were evaluated by lecturers and researchers with the aim of
determining which physical design elements enhance and which detract
from the experience of reading or consulting an electronic book.
specially developed "Ebook Evaluation Model" was implemented
in varying degrees by each of these experiments, ensuring that all results
could be compared at some level. This methodology comprised various
options for selecting material and participants and described the different
tasks and evaluation techniques which can be employed in an experiment.
These ranged from simple retrieval tasks measuring the participants'
ability to find information in the material to "high cognitive
skill" tasks set by lecturers to measure the participants' understanding
of concepts in the texts, and from Web-based questionnaires measuring
subjective satisfaction to one-to-one interviews with participants discussing
elements of interacting with the test material in detail.
of the guidelines
EBONI's Electronic Textbook Design Guidelines address two main factors
affecting ebook interface design:
on-screen appearance of information
look and feel of ebook hardware
first fifteen guidelines focus on on-screen design issues, while the
remainder advise on hardware design. Each guideline has a number, a
title, a brief description, a list of checkpoints with which developers
of digital textbooks should comply in order to maximise the usability
of their content for the HE community, and examples are included to
illustrate aspects of good practice.
appropriate, the W3C
Web Content Accessibility Guidelines are referred to. Developers
of online content should comply with these to ensure material is available
to the widest possible audience, and should also refer to the following
W3C User Agent Accessibility Guidelines 1.0
W3C HTML 4.0 Guidelines for Mobile Access (work in progress)
Digital Talking Book 2.02 Specification
Open eBook Forum Publication Structure 1.0.1