Reading text on screen is much more difficult than reading printed material. You have to remember this when writing the content for your website. Don’t waffle. You need to be concise and follow a few simple rules.

The main textual content of your website needs to be considered otherwise your readers will walk away and all that time and effort you put into writing your beautiful content will be wasted.

We are talking about the main content of your website here, not the graphics and items that create your design or brand. This is the main words, articles, news items, product details etc…

Black and White

Black and white text just works. It gives excellent contrast and allow your readers to focus on the words your have written rather than trying to decipher the bright green text on the tartan background.

Dark text on a white background is what everyone prefers. Don’t try to be flash, keep the presentation simple and your site will start to work.

Don’t try to be clever with white text on a dark background. If you do you’ll need to increase the size of your text to help.

If people can’t read your site because of your poor design, you’ve wasted your time.

Choose your font wisely

There are only a small number of fonts that work well on website.

Sans Serif fonts (without all the curly bits – like the one used here) are the best to use for large amounts of writing. Arial, Verdana, Gill Sans, Tahoma and Geneva are preferred for the main body text by many designer.

You can get a little creative with your heading fonts, but again choose wisely.

Size does matter

Of course size matters. Making your text size too small to read so that your reader has to squint at their computer just makes their life hard.

Choose a font size that readers will enjoy and that will almost go unnoticed.

Remember also not to use fixed size fonts for your main content too often. Your readers will be a varied bunch and many will want to resize your main content in their browsers.

Make sure that you use a variable size setting in your website design and that the textual content flows correctly when resized.

Writing for the Web

In school, you learned to write documents that were formal, rigidly structured, and relatively impersonal. While it still works in many situations, that style won’t earn you any A’s from website visitors.

When you’re creating text for your website, remember the “Three S” rule: keep it Simple, Succinct, and Scannable.

Limit your Line Length

Web pages are all about information; visitors come to your website to read content.

Book and magazine publishers long ago learned that blocks of text are easier to read if they’re limited to around 65 characters per line. This isn’t a firm rule; in practice print publishers may use anywhere from 50 to 80 characters per line, with 65 being about the average.

Lines longer than 80 characters are hard to follow. When your eye reaches the end of a line, it has trouble finding the beginning of the next line. Likewise, very short lines require your eye to constantly scan back and forth.

Get to the Point

User impatience isn’t the only issue: fatigue is also a problem. A lot of content can be hard to read online because reading from computer screens is tiring on the eyes. Online reading is also about 25% slower than reading from print.

You’re competing with millions of other pages for attention. Users are perfectly happy to skip to another site if they can”t quickly find what they need at yours.

Highlight Important Content

Think about how you read online. Most users scan the content quickly, read the headlines or titles, and only then decide whether to read the actual content. Make sure your content is scannable.

Whitespace is Good

Blocks of text are much easier to read than continuous text. Your users can rest between each block and with well placed headings can find the content they want swiftly.

Define your content in manageable blocks, use well constructed sentences and paragraphs.

Succinct content in bulleted lists is much easier to read that pages of text.

– Users can scan lists more quickly than blocks of text
– Lists can highlight important items
– They can order content by importance