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Website Readability: Its Importance and How To Do It Right

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If you’re a website owner, digital marketer, or content creator, you’re likely aware of the importance of creating high-quality content that resonates with your target audience. However, creating engaging content is only half the battle. If your website is not designed with readability in mind, you may be holding back your efforts to retain users, with that in mind, why is website readability crucial for your online presence?

In short, website readability is essential in ensuring that users can understand the messaging and find what they’re looking for quickly. It affects the way users engage with your content. An unreadable website can cause frustration and confusion, which can lead to lower engagement and sales.

In this article, we will explore the importance of website readability and how it can impact user experience, search engine optimization, and brand image, as well as the many factors and tips for improving website readability.

What is Website Readability?

Website readability refers to how easy a user can read and understand the content on a website. Readability is influenced by many factors, such as the font, font size, spacing, color, contrast and the length and complexity of sentences and paragraphs.

A website’s readability should be designed to cater to the target audience and their reading preferences. An excellent readable website is one that enables users to navigate through the website and understand its content without any friction.

Why is Website Readability Important?

Website readability is important because it helps users understand the information presented on a website. When users can easily understand the information, they are more likely to engage with the content and explore more, which is great for SEO.

A well-designed website that is easy to read enhances the user experience, and users are more likely to spend more time on that site.

Readability is an important factor in Search Engine Optimization. Imagine a user comes to your website and can’t find what they’re looking for because your site is hard to read, so they leave and find it on your competitor’s website. Who do you think Google is going to show higher on the search engine result pages (SERP)?

Using the correct H-tags can help with Google reading your sight.

Let me explain! Google reads your website like a book, here’s the analogy:

  • H1: This is the main title of the book, on a website it tells the reader what the page is about
  • H2: These are the chapter titles, breaking down the main story into chunks
  • H3: Think of subheadings within a chapter, dividing the content into smaller digestible bites.
  • H4, H5, etc: You wouldn’t use these as much in a book, but they can be helpful online.

H-tags help readers skim headings, grasp the main points and find specific info quickly. On top of that they also help search engines understand the page’s structure and content, making it easier to rank your page in relevant searches.

Finally branding, a website that is easy to read and understand and reflects positively on the brand’s credibility, professionalism, and attention to detail. Opposed to a website that is difficult to read and understand can have the opposite effect and damage the brand’s reputation.

Just like a beautifully designed logo but with an illegible name wouldn’t be effective, a brand with complex, jargon-filled messages undermines its impact.

To sum up, website readability is important for these reasons:

  • Users understand the goal and or benefits of a website
  • Helps rankings in SERPs because users can find what they’re looking for and use your product or service
  • Helps search engines figure out what your site is about
  • Builds trust because a brands readable website reflects positively on its brand

Here is an excerpt from another article on how to write high-converting copy, formatted in 2 different ways, which one is easier to read?

The one on the right! Both texts are exactly the same text, but the left one is super hard to read, it takes more effort and visitors don’t like putting in the effort to navigate your site

“But that’s a blog post, not a webpage”, below is an actual website’s hero section, have a look and see how long it takes you to figure out what the website does

example of a website with bad readability
example of a website with bad readability

It’s a law firm, how long did it take you to figure that out, more than 3 seconds?

If your website doesn’t explain what it does within 3 seconds of a person landing on your page, then they are more likely to search elsewhere.

How to Improve Website Readability

Making a website scannable relies on a combination of strategic content and design choices. Here are some key steps you can take:

Choose The Right Font Size And Style

A font that is too small or too fancy can make it difficult for users to read the content. Serif fonts are often used in print media, while sans-serif fonts are better suited for online reading.

A font size of 16px or larger is recommended not just for optimal readability but for accessibility as well. Avoid decorative and script fonts and lean more towards san serif and serif fonts.

Create Readable Headings

Headings help users and search engines scan the content quickly and understand the overall structure of the page. It is important to use clear and concise headings that accurately reflect the content that follows and to use the correct H-tag structure.

Also, avoid jargon and technical terms instead, explain technical terms or industry jargon in simpler language for a wider audience.

Use Bullet Points and Numbered Lists

Bullet points and numbered lists help create readable text by:

  • breaking down complex info into bite-sized chunks
  • Lists out each main point
  • Straight to the point. no fluff

Use Spacing Between Lines, Words and Paragraphs

Kerning, leading and tracking, the space between letters, words and paragraphs, helps readers read your content. If their spacing is too tight, they merge visually, making it difficult to decipher the word. Similarly, too much space creates awkward gaps.

Line height, also known as leading, refers to the vertical space between lines of text. Adequate line height is a must for website readability as it helps to prevent the text from feeling cramped and overwhelming.

example of line height i.e. leading that is too tight, too wide and just right
example of line height i.e. leading that is too tight, too wide and just right

PRO TIP: When adjusting line height i.e. leading, start with a large gap then narrow the light height into something that suits your design needs.

Line length refers to the number of characters per line of text. Lines that are too long can be difficult to read, while lines that are too short can make the text feel disjointed. The optimal line length for website readability is typically between 50 and 75 characters.

Take advantage of Bold and italic text

Bold and italic text can be used throughout your text to highlight key points or terms. But use this sparingly, you don’t want to overwhelm your reader.

Consistency in Design

Consistency in design elements, such as font type, size, spacing and color, all play a part in website readability. Not only does it make the website more aesthetically pleasing and easy to navigate, but it helps keep the flow of the user journey too.

Here is an example of inconsistency in web design. Where do you even start?

Designing a Website For Readability

In addition to these factors, there are specific design principles that are essential for website readability. These principles include:

Hierarchy

Imagine navigating a city without street signs or landmarks. Disorienting, right? That’s what a website without hierarchy feels like. With website readability, hierarchy guides users to find what they need and understand your content. Let’s delve into why hierarchy is so important:

Why Hierarchy Matters:

  • Clarity and Organization: A clear hierarchy structures your website like a well-organized book, with main topics forming chapters and subtopics acting like subheadings. This makes it easier for users to scan, find specific information, and understand the overall flow of content.
  • Improved User Experience (UX): Imagine stumbling through a maze to find the exit. A chaotic website creates similar frustration. Hierarchy acts like breadcrumbs, leading users effortlessly to their destination without confusion or wasted clicks.
  • SEO Boost: Search engines like Google favor websites with clear hierarchy. It helps them understand your content and index your pages efficiently, potentially improving your search ranking.
  • Enhances Engagement: Users rarely read every word on a website. Hierarchy helps them quickly identify relevant sections and skim for key information, keeping them engaged and interested in exploring further.
  • Brand Consistency: A consistent hierarchy across your website reinforces your brand identity. Think of it as a signature style that makes your website recognizable and memorable.

How to create effective hierarchy on your site:

  • Start with Content Organization: Group related content into logical categories and subcategories, mirroring your target audience’s information needs.
  • Navigation Structure: Design a clear and intuitive navigation menu that reflects your content organization. Consider using mega menus for complex websites.
  • Visual Cues: Employ visual elements like font size, weight, color, and spacing to emphasize hierarchy. Headings, subheadings, and bullet points play a crucial role.
  • Breadcrumbs: Implement breadcrumbs to show users their current location within the website structure, aiding in navigation and understanding.
  • Consistency is Key: Maintain a consistent hierarchy across all pages to avoid confusing users with different navigation structures.

Contrast

Contrast refers to the difference in color, tone, or texture between design elements. Contrast is crucial in website readability as it helps to make the text and design elements stand out and easy to read. This also means when placing text over images.

Contrast’s role in website readability:

  • Accessibility: Poor contrast, especially between text and background, can make websites difficult to read for people with visual impairments or color blindness. This not only excludes a significant portion of your audience but also violates accessibility guidelines. no bueno
  • Readability: When text blends into the background, it becomes visually tiring to read. High contrast ensures clear separation, making it easier for users to absorb information and navigate your site.
  • Aesthetics: Contrast adds visual interest and prevents your website from looking flat and dull. Strategic use of contrasting colors can enhance your brand identity and create a visually pleasing experience.

PRO TIP: Add a drop shadow on the text when placing text over images. This increases the readability of the text, especially on images that are dark in one section and lighter in another OR you can color correct your images like National Geographic does in the example below

Here are some tips to leverage contrast effectively:

  • Color Contrast Ratio: Use tools like WCAG contrast checker or Coolers Contrast Checker to ensure sufficient contrast between text and background.
  • Consider Color Blindness: Choose color combinations friendly to various forms of color blindness.
  • Don’t Overdo It: While contrast is important, avoid overwhelming users with excessive color clashes. Stick to a cohesive color scheme with strategic contrasts.
  • Think Beyond Color: Contrast can also be achieved using elements like font size, weight, and spacing. Play with these elements to create a visual hierarchy.
  • Test and Iterate: Get feedback from diverse users with different visual abilities. Test different contrast combinations to see what works best for your audience.

White Space

White space, or negative space, is the area between design elements. Creating white space with your content creates a visually clean and airy layout.

This can be achieved simply by adding some spacing between the header and text as Google does in the image below. follow the link for more on How to use White Space in Web Design


Typography

While amazing visuals and engaging copy are important, the true foundation of a readable website lies in its typography.

Why is Typography Important?

Typography’s role in website readability:

  • Clarity and Accessibility: Illegible or poorly chosen fonts can make websites difficult to read, especially for people with visual impairments. It also excludes people who need an accessible website
  • Readability and Engagement: When text blends into the background or is difficult to decipher, users quickly lose interest and move on. Clear and consistent typography ensures smooth reading, keeping users engaged and more likely to absorb your content.
  • Hierarchy and Emphasis: Effective typography helps guide users’ eyes. By using different font sizes, weights, and styles, you can create a visual hierarchy that highlights key information, headings, and calls to action. This makes your website easier to navigate and understand.
  • Brand Identity and Aesthetics: Typography is an extension of your brand personality. Choosing fonts that align with your brand values (e.g., serif for a luxury website, script for an elegant website) creates a memorable experience. It also adds visual interest and prevents your website from looking flat and dull.

Here are some tips to leverage typography effectively:

  • Font Choice: Opt for clear, legible fonts like Arial, Helvetica, or Verdana. Avoid overly decorative or script fonts that can be difficult to read.
  • Keep It Simple: Don’t overdo it, you only need 2 fonts, 3 max, 1 for headings 1 for bodies of text and if you want a 3rd to accompany your headings font. If you want more versatility remember that each font has a family (light, regular, bold, etc)
  • Font Size: Aim for a comfortable font size for body text, typically around 16-18px on desktops and slightly larger for mobile.
  • Line Height: Ensure adequate space between lines (around 1.5 times the font size) for easy reading flow.
  • Hierarchy: Use different font sizes, weights, and styles to create a clear visual hierarchy that guides users through your content.
  • Consistency: Maintain a consistent font style and size across your website to avoid jarring visual transitions and reinforce brand identity.
  • Accessibility: Choose fonts with good legibility and consider color contrast to ensure your website is usable by everyone.
  • Testing and Iteration: Get feedback from diverse users with different visual abilities. Test different font combinations to see what works best for your audience.

Bonus Tip: Consider using a web font analyzer like Google’s WhatFont tool to identify and analyze fonts used on other websites you find visually appealing and readable.

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