Creating a User-Friendly Website: The Importance of Readability
The optimal line length to help users read and digest information
One element often forgotten in web design is the width of your page’s text area. With websites being viewed on a number of different devices, it’s important to make your content easy to read. This is more than just having your content make sense! If the layout makes reading difficult, and the right balance between font size and line length is not achieved, then chances are your content won’t be read.
On a larger screen, the text should not fill all of the horizontal space. We often make the mistake of expanding text boxes to very large sizes. A text box as wide as a 30-inch screen is less efficient for reading and site design than one that is between 700-1000 pixels in width. Regardless of how wide you stretch your browser; the text box should always max out within this range. This isn’t different from measuring line length by the number of characters, the length target being between 50-75 characters per line. This is simply just another unit of measurement. It is a great way to set an absolute limit so your text remains readable. Your images might span across a screen size entirely, but your text doesn’t have to – and it shouldn’t if usability is being kept at top of your mind.
A simple reading experience for your visitors
The last thing you want is for your website to be labelled as ‘hard to read’. Customers and clients make choices quickly when you can put them at ease. A simple reading experience leads visitors to easily read your content and make decisions faster. To step away from the specific range for the moment, what are the consequences of violating this range? If a line of text is too wide the reader might have a hard time focusing on the information. This is due to the length making it difficult to gauge where the line begins and ends. This can also make it difficult to continue down to the next line in large blocks of text. If a line is too short the reader’s eye will have to break backward too often, breaking the reader’s rhythm. Too short lines also tend to make readers uncomfortable; this is due to making them begin on the next line before finishing the current one, this can also lead to the reader skipping important words & text.
Putting your customers at ease
In the end, analyse for what’s most readable. A rule of thumb is to monitor whether you have to move your neck/head to read the text in a single column, if you do then it’s probably too wide. Ideally, the reader should be able to scan each line just by moving their eyes. People don’t like to struggle: provide your customers and clients with a comfortable reading experience, and they’re more likely to give you more of their time. Analyse for what is most readable, balancing these considerations with other important elements such as creating interesting content, and a scrollable layout. Understanding that customers need to read what you have to say to understand why they should contact you is vital in helping your business grow. Make your customers and clients as at ease as they can possibly be. People like ‘easy’ and it is up to you to give ‘easy’ to them.
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