Thanks everyone for taking the time to read and comment on my article.
I need to explain that in the original study, the table did NOT have any cell borders, regardless of whether it was ‘plain’ or ‘striped’. The table you are seeing in this article is a REPRODUCTION of the original. I have asked ALA to put up a screen shot of the original table, to help clarify things, but in the interim you can get it from the full paper which is linked to in the article.
I would also like to clarify two things. Firstly, I am not claiming that zebra striping never helps. You’ll see that towards the end of the article I recognise that “this was just one experiment, with one dataset”.
I wholeheartedly agree with Paul A that there are more questions raised than there are answered - this is often the case in research. My aim in conducting at least one follow up study is to explore some of these questions. Moreover, the original study did test one the most commonly used approaches, the use of light grey shading.
However, I have to say that I think one study is better than none, which was the state of affairs when I went exploring the issue last year.
Secondly, the study found that in this case, there was no statistically significant improvement in accuracy and there was a statistically significant improvement in speed in only some situations. As a statistician I know that NOT finding a statistically significant difference does NOT mean that there isn’t true difference, if that makes any sense. It may just be that the we haven’t found the conditions in which there is a difference.
@Andrew I: I agree that one reason why a strong improvement in accuracy and speed was not found could be the length of the study. In the full research paper, I have posited that perhaps the reason why the sixth question is the only one with a statistically significant difference is because fatigue is starting to set in. I hope to explore the issue of fatigue more in the future.
Tiago R: You might be interested to know that in the past there was some use of more than one colour for paper print outs, e.g. green row, white row, orange row, white row. One obvious problem with this approach is that it may not work for users who have trouble distinguishing colour. It could also may be more burdensome than helpful, because of the cognitive load associated with processing colour.
Trek G & Julian L: I agree that in some environments, zebra striping is not time consuming. However, not everyone is working in those environments. But more importantly, I don’t think we should be doing something out of habit, without having hard evidence that it actually helps.