Websites that make their customers work to read them are not the best way to get business. Miniscule fonts, text in colors that make it hard to see against the background, and lines that are piled on top of each other are problems, but they're easy to correct. Let's jump right in and look at five easy fixes:
1. Format your text using CSS, not Font tags.
Cascading Style Sheets (CSS) are the way to go – use one style sheet and control how text looks on your entire site. Make a change to the style sheet and your whole site is updated. It makes life a lot simpler.
2. Make the font size big enough to read.
Consider your target audience. Even if they are a group of teenage girls looking for new shoes, it's very rarely a good idea to use tiny type. It doesn't have to be enormous, but up to a point, larger type is better. 11-pt Verdana is nearly always a better choice than 8-pt Verdana.
3. Make the text contrast with its background.
The more contrast, the better. Black-on-white or white-on-black are examples of the highest contrast you can achieve. Use colors if you like, but if you squint at the page and your text more or less vanishes, there's not enough contrast.
4. Give the lines room to breathe.
Don't stack lines on top of each other. Use the line-spacing feature in CSS and give them some space; I'll typically set line-spacing to 130% or 140% of the height of a typical line.
5. Break text up into chunks.
No matter how good a writer you are, people don't want to read endless pages of text. Break it up by using headlines that reflect the subject of the paragraph (s) to follow so people can scan down to the parts that really interest them, or use bulleted lists to change the pace of the writing and slow down the scanning.
And finally (not one of the 5 Easy Ways to Improve Legibility but still quite important) check your spelling . Few things are more irritating on a web page than spelling errors – they simply make you look like you don't care enough to get it right. Use that ubiquitous spellcheck tool.
Making your website's content more legible is easy. It doesn't take a lot of time, just common sense. The payoff will be text that's more readable, customers that stick around long enough to get your message, and improved credibility with your visitors.
Copyright 2006, Debbie A Campbell