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How Readable Is Your Website Content? 4 Best Practices on Using Typography in Web Design

How Readable Is Your Website Content? 4 Best Practices on Using Typography in Web Design

by Adrian Ababei on Dec 01 2016
Since the Web pays tribute to the whole concept of UX these days, since all web developers direct their efforts towards “hooking”, engaging and pleasing (whether that means impressing, informing, shocking or enriching) the User, typography has started to regain its glow! 
 
Even now, in the age of breathtaking imagery and attention-grabbing videos, typography is still king! Add a short, impacting text line (in a strategically chosen typeface) to a striking image or upgrade a stunning, hypnotizing video with a powerful written text and you'll instantly strengthen your message, you'll instantly add a new layer of meaning to it!
 
On the other hand, “worn out”, conventional typefaces or too embellished typefaces, that won't support the literal message you're trying to convey, bad spacing, lack of contrast or any other unfortunate way of handling web typography can ruin your website (if it's not easy-to-read your visitors will definitely bounce off, whereas if it does not complement and strengthen your message, if it does not help it trigger the type of emotion you're trying to trigger in the user, all your efforts put in web design and programming are at risk).

 

But What Is Typography After All?

 
Very basically put: typography is how the text looks
 
If we are to elaborate this rudimentary definition a bit: typography is more than just the arrangement of written content (paragraphs, forms, sentences, words); it's also how written text interacts with all the other types of content on your website: videos, images, color. It's about how it manages to “collaborate” with all the other content types for conveying the message/triggering the emotion you want to trigger in your users. 

 

Why Should You Bother So Much About It?

 
Because it's that “invisible” force that might either strengthen your relationship with your User or “destroy” all your hard work. It depends a lot on how you use it (or how you refuse to use it).
 
Since 95% of the content on the web is written content and considering the “fierce competition” out there, among websites, you just can't afford ignoring or not paying enough attention to how texts gets displayed on your website.
 
Learn to use web typography to your advantage: when done right, it's a “force” that helps you create visual interest, better structure your information design, make your written content readable and in a nutshell: influence your users. A too powerful of a “tool” not to strategically use it, don't you think?
 
Easy-to-read! Persuasive! Does that ring any bell, you UX expert, you?

 

Tips For Improving Your Website's Typography Now

 
No need to panic now if, let's say, you're still displaying a way too “dusty” font on your website (such as Arial), or if you've taken a wrong decision and, driven by a wish to innovate, you've gone for a way too embellished typeface, when your text should just convey its literal meaning instead. There's nothing that some good practices in web typography can't fix. Here are our 4 tips for you!

1.  Hierarchies Are Major Readability-Boosters

 
Don't take our word or granted! Test it and see it for yourself. Do an A/B test:

 
  • on the left side: a piece of content with no hierarchy whatsoever, a block of text featuring pretty much the same font size (or with very little variations) for its headlines, title, body etc.

     
  • on the right side: a hierarchy-type of content with, let's say, a 15-17 px font size, a visible first headline, followed, closely, by the secondary ones (of about 150% of the body size), making reading much more fluid, featuring white spaces for the eye to rest on etc.
 
Isn't the whole information far better structured in the second example?

2. Choose the Right Typeface 

 
“And how do I know which one of “THE ONE”? Especially when the Web unfortunately “spoils” us with such an overwhelming “repertoire” of temping typefaces?
 
Well, to this question we have no unique valid “recipe” for you: see what's out there, on the web, analyze your competition, those websites that try to convey the same type of messages as yours and examine their fonts. Conduct your own “investigation”, see which are the most “effective” typefaces.
 
In between your own “investigations”, you could as well try out (and see if they work for you, too) these 3 body text typefaces-related tips that we've prepared for you here:
 
  • Even color: stay away from body text typefaces that break the rule of “evenness of color”, those that display patches of whiteness and blackness. Body text fonts should be consistent for displaying an easy-to-read text for your users

     
  • Sturdy shapes: make sure the typefaces you choose for your body text are easy-to-read at small size, too. So, a good practice is to choose high x-heights typefaces with less frills (lest the glyph shapes should turn into distraction for your users and the way too “subtle” fonts, at small sizes, should get outshone by the environment on the web page) 

     
  • Active texture: do your best to balance various aspects of the text block and type. Make sure your body text font's active texture (meaning the typeface's contrast with the white space of the page, the one enhancing visibility around the glyphs) is neither too dull or too lively. In other words, it shouldn't distract the reader/user from the text's message itself, nor bore him/her (making it difficult for him/her to actually distinguish the letters' shapes).

3. Adjust Your Line Spacing

 
In other words: allow your written copy to breath! How? By setting up your vertical spacing and giving your text more room (it will be a lot easier for the User's eye to scan it). 
 
A good practice, in this respect, would be to go for a line-height of 15-19pt if you're going for a 12pt font, for instance. You do the math what line-height you should go for if your font is bigger.

4. Adjust Your Line Width

 
“How many?” you may ask, “How many words should there be in a text line, within a paragraph?"
 
It's a common sense approach to go for an average of 45-75 characters if you're handling with a one-column web page and for 40-50 characters if there are multiple columns on your page. 

 
 
How about you? Which are your own web typography good practices? How do you make use of typography's “arsenal of cool tools”? How do you make it “serve” your website's purpose? 
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