A more readable website means improved usability and an enjoyable reading experience. We all want that for our users, don’t we?
In this article we’ll go through 5 simple ways you can improve readability on your website. Of course feel free to chime in and leave a comment at the end of the article, I’d love to hear your thoughts.
Basic Understanding of Typography
You should definitely get yourself familiar with terms like kerning, tracking, leading, serif, sans-serif, line height, etc…
Typography is a very important aspect of modern web-design, especially now that more and more people are using the @font-face property in CSS and that there are services like Typekit, which enables people to use non web-safe fonts on their sites.
Of course even the most beautiful typefaces won’t help if you don’t follow some basic guidelines. Try to always use a typographic scale, either one you created yourself or an existing one. If you’re working with pixels, a simple one like 12, 14, 16, 18, 21, 24, 36, 48, 60, would work well as it simply helps define a typographic hierarchy. Always use legible font sizes.
Use Whitespace Effectively
“Whitespace” refers to the space between elements in a design – it does not actually mean the color white, but rather the empty or negative space separating sections and elements. Making good use of whitespace is key to improving readability.
If everything is all crammed together and there’s no clear separation between elements, reading and navigating your website becomes very difficult. Make sure you give your content, copy, buttons, lists, call to action buttons and other elements some room to breathe.
We all know that online users don’t read, they scan till they find something that catches their attention, click, and then read (or keep scanning). Take advantage of that and make your pages easy to scan by using whitespace effectively.
Alignment And Grid
If text and design elements are all over the place it becomes very hard to read and your page won’t flow nicely. Using a grid will help tremendously in organizing your content and directing users to key elements on your page – things like call-to-action buttons for example.
There are some well-known grid systems like the 960.gs and Blueprint which you can use as a starting point and reference when creating your design. I personally like to use my own framework, but I guess that’s a personal choice ;)
Obviously grid systems, typographic scales and font choices are very important, but so is color. Light grey text on a white background may look slick to you, but for someone else it may be completely unreadable. If your target audience is people over 60, you might want to make that text darker so it’s more readable. Similarly, if you have a dark background you should probably make the text as light as possible.
You can definitely play around with contrast. If your site has a white background, you can draw attention to certain elements by making them darker and make other elements lighter so they don’t draw as much attention.
Make sure there’s good contrast between design elements, background colors and text. You could use tools like the ‘Colour Contrast Check‘ tool to test different colors and contrast.
Keep It Short And To The Point
Like I said earlier, people don’t read, they scan. I know I do! So by making your copy shorter and removing extraneous stuff, you improve readability. After all, you’re not writing a novel (well maybe you are) you’re writing an online article. I personally get turned off by a large block of text and often won’t take the time to read it. Break things down into paragraphs and lists. Use bullet points and revise your copy to remove unnecessary words and sentences.
Chances are you can convey the same message in 50 words as you would with 100 words. Keep it simple and to the point and your users will thank you for it.
Your Turn To Talk
I know I’ve barely scratched the surface with this post, but please share your own tips and tricks with the rest of us. I’d love to read them. See you in the comment section! ;)