How to Make Your Content More Readable

If you were designing a magazine, you’d put great thought into layout, typefaces, and colors—so why not when you’re posting content online? The truth is, in terms of design, some of the same rules that apply to print publications apply to online text. And by tapping into some proven design strategies, you can set up your content to be easier to read.

Here are a few areas to think about to make your content more readable online!

Spacing

To be most readable, your content needs to have appropriate spacing. Spacing helps focus the audience’s attention on the areas you want to highlight. Magazines and print publications refer to this as leading. Here are two specific areas to consider:

  • Line Spacing: Provide enough space for readers to easily recognize the letters in each line of your content. Look at the space between lines of text, between letters, and between words. To increase legibility, you may also want to add more spacing to the default option in page layout.
  • White Space: Putting white space around your written content helps draw attention to it. Work to keep your website design neat and clean through the use of strategic white spaces.

Headers

Headers and subheaders (distinguished in HTML as h1, h2, h3, and so on) help organize your content for readers. What’s more, through style sheets and coding, you can easily customize them to look the way you like. When you style all your main points to be easily distinguishable, you make it easier for readers to grasp your message.

Font

Font choice plays a huge role in readability. Not only does it matter what size and color font you use but also what style and whether or not it is uppercase. When selecting the font to use for your content, look for one that is legible, clear, and easily adaptable to different sizes. To help you know how to select the right one, here are some qualities that distinguish readable fonts:

  • Familiarity
  • Clarity on computer screen (for many, this means sans-serif fonts)
  • Clarity in different sizes
  • Adaptability to various operating systems

Paragraphs

Avoid long, rambling paragraphs and choose instead to break up your content into small chunks. Short paragraphs “put air around what you write and make it look more inviting,” says William Zinsser, author of the legendary writing guidebook “On Writing Well,” building upon the premise that writing is visual. Breaking up your content into smaller chunks makes it easier on the reader’s eyes. Shorter paragraphs are also easier to scan, which is how many Web readers take in content.

Color

There’s a reason so many sites have white or black backgrounds rather than coloring outside the lines. Though it might not seem obvious at first glance, color plays a huge role in how readers process a website’s content. Here are some general principles for using color to make your content more readable!

  • Keep aesthetics secondary: Creative designs can be fun and interesting but should never sacrifice clarity.
  • Stick with classic background colors: As a general rule, classic background colors, such as white, black, or gray, are a good bet.
  • Test colors: Use an online tool like the color text legibility tester to evaluate whether or not your color combination will work.

Applying These Principles to Your Site

Take a look at your website and evaluate the way spacing, headers, font, paragraphs, and color are influencing legibility. Could a few design changes make the difference in how your readers are able to process your information? What areas could be improved? What changes should you make? And what other design factors play a role in readability online?

This is a rare guest post, brought to you by the wonderful team at Straight North.

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Shanna Mallon is a writer for Straight North, an Internet marketing agency providing SEO, Web development, blog marketing strategy and other online marketing services, with headquarters in Chicago. Follow StraightNorth on Twitter and Facebook.

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