Picture this: You arrive on a website and are greeted with this block of text:

web 1

Would you stick around and read this kind of web content? Would you expect your user to stick around? I know I wouldn’t. As a designer, I know it’s important to get a user’s attention and to keep them interested throughout the experience on the site. This includes formatting the longer blocks of text which may be killing a website.

A website is not a book

When someone picks up a book, they expect to read information in paragraph format. When someone visits a website, there is only a brief period of time before interest is  lost. When in doubt, think about your information in small chunks your reader can digest easily.

When I’m formatting text, I start the process by giving a larger paragraph an appropriate heading to draw the viewer in. The heading should be approximately 200-300% the size of the text in the paragraph. In some cases I may include a subheading underneath the main heading.

Keep the line width at a manageable length for the reader. If a block of text is too wide, it feels awkward to read. A good rule of thumb is to limit your characters per line to between 50 & 70 and give it the right amount of breathing room (whitespace) on both sides. Also, a line height of 1.5 will improve legibility for the user. The takeaway: if the lines of text are too close together you’ll lose legibility. White space is equally important both on the sides of the block and in between lines.

web 2

Is it visually appealing?

Most people will agree a great website provides pertinent information and is also easy on the eyes. When I’m formatting content on a site, I add in visual elements which compliment the formatted text (whether it’s a picture, icon or texture). In this case I chose a full-width image which places emphasis on an object on the left side of the screen and adds balance to our section composition. Then I normally will adjust my heading to make it more polished.

web 3

Get someone to edit your work!

I stare at websites all day so it’s easy to fall into the legibility trap when you’ve read over copy again and again. One tactic I always employ is asking a friend or coworker to look over how I’ve formatted a block of text on a website. Getting a fresh opinion on something you’ve have been working on day in day out can be extremely helpful.

Now go take a look at your website. How does your text formatting and the rest of your design stack up?

Next: The Website Audit