You’re making a website. The first step is getting a website domain and being aware of all the elements your website needs to perform its function. You’ll also need to understand how to sort out navigation, and you plan to include a blog section because you plan to use content marketing.
Every single one of these things requires you to make a lot of decisions that will affect your website’s performance. As a designer, you should be aware of them. And you should also know that, when it comes to content, readability and legibility are a big issue.
The Internet and Readability
It turns out that the web is becoming progressively more unreadable. It’s not only the choices designers make that are at fault. Device makers issue advice and best practices that are often at odds with how their devices work. All of this can lead to people having to strain their eyes to read content. Eye strain might not cause any serious long-term effects, but it will reduce people’s effectiveness, ability to concentrate, and it will make them feel tired.
As a web designer, your job is to design a pleasant user experience, especially in this day and age when everything seems to be about quality user experience. That’s why you need to take steps to make it easier and more comfortable for people to read your content. And it’s not that hard to do.
Start with the Contrast
Don’t use a low contrast between the lettering and the background. Just don’t. Web design trends are moving away from it, and if you would choose to follow just one trend, this should be the one.
Nothing good comes from using low contrast text. It’s harder to discover elements that use low contrast. It’s more difficult to read copy that uses low contrast. People who have problems with vision or impaired cognitive functioning will have extra troubles reading and understanding the copy. The contrast between the letters and the background should be at least 7:1. However, viewing conditions and adaptive screens can easily reduce the ratio, so maybe aim for a higher contrast.
Pick Your Fonts Carefully
There is an incredible array of free fonts you can choose from when creating your website. The golden rule is that sans-serifs are easier to read than serif fonts. Of course, you can bend that rule a little bit, especially when you are using letters for small pieces of copy with a length of just a couple of words. But when you’re choosing fonts for content such as articles, stick with the sans serifs.
Fonts have properties that might help you improve contrast. Playing around with different weights will do the trick. It’s a much better option than using low-contrast colors, and you achieve the same effects. Font size is a bit tricky because people like to believe that 16 pixels is still the ideal size for fonts. Using percentages to determine the size of your font works much better across different devices.
Write the Way People Read
You write content so that people can read it. It makes sense to know how people read if you want your content to perform well. And people like to scan more than they like to read online. Writing for people who like to scan text means that you have to put the most enticing copy in your text right there in the first line. That’s nothing new — writers have been doing that long before the internet was even invented. But you have to repeat that practice in every single paragraph.
And you should make new paragraphs quite often. The web-friendly text has shorter paragraphs than your average book. You have to formulate your thoughts more concisely without losing any of the value. That can be tricky.
Other than that, you should know that subheadings are a great thing to break the text and establish a hierarchy. You should create a new subheading every two or three paragraphs. And while you’re at it, don’t shy away from bullet points, pictures, or anything else that breaks the monotony of the text. You shouldn’t overdo it, but don’t be afraid of putting a good list in your article.
The web is full of advice on how to make your website stand out from the crowd. The bulk of it is probably good. But don’t get lost in things you can do to improve the visibility of your website. Remember that people have to be able to read your website. Remember that they have to be able to clearly view the important elements. Put readability and legibility high on your list of web design priorities.