In 2007, Formulate conducted research that aimed to find out whether zebra striping — the shading of alternate rows in a table or form — aided readability.
The results of this study have now been published in A List Apart, a well-known and respected online magazine.
We recommend you read the full article; it's not very long and there are some nuances that are worth being aware of. In summary, however, the research was unable to find a statistically significant improvement in task accuracy or speed from the use of zebra striping. Having said that, there is some indication of subjective preference that supports the use of the technique.
Formulate is concerned that other factors — like table width, user age and fatigue — may influence the effectiveness or otherwise of zebra striping. This is why we are currently conducting a follow-up study (update 15 June 2008: the study is now closed) and are carefully considering doing yet more research to try to establish a definitive answer to the zebra striping and readability question.
Currently we are conducting and funding this research ourselves. If you're interested in getting involved or supporting us, please email firstname.lastname@example.org. Any or all help much appreciated.