10 Effective Ways To Improve Online Readability

Readability Tips

You could write the best article with the most original content that has ever hit the web, but if you don’t present it to you audience in a nice neat fashion, it’s likely to never gain any steam. User readability is one part of your website that should not be overlooked. People visit your site to read content, and the better laid out that content is, the easier it is to read.

So, just what can we do to help to increase readability? Here is a quick list of 10 Effective Ways To Improve Online Readability, with a bit of a ‘Family Guy’ twist.

Text Blocks

A screen full of text is likely to scare readers off. Come up with interesting ways to break up multiple paragraphs. Use graphs or images to help keep things lively.

Post Date

Lighten the color of post dates and other information that needs to be included beneath the heading. This allows the reader to quickly look past it and move on to the body of the article.

Text Color and Caps

If you are wanting to emphasize a particular word in a block of text, it’s best to leave the font color alone. When readers see a change in color they expect it to represent an outgoing link.

Secondly, WORDS IN ALL CAPS should be avoided at all costs. This disrupts the natural flow of the text and can be distracting.

Putting the two together is a real crime.

text color

Advertisements

Most blogs need to include advertising so that the time and money put into all of the hard work can be recouped.

I’ve read some articles claiming that one hot spot for ads is directly in the middle of the content. I don’t know how true this is, but it’s guaranteed to break a readers chain of thought.

If you’re going to add some advertising to the body of your article, try and keep it at the top or bottom of the post.

Text Wrapping

Be careful when wrapping text around images. If you have to, reword the text or alter the image size to allow for some breathing room. White space is a good thing.

Font Styles

When deciding on a font, make sure to pick something that is fairly common. Straying away from more popular font styles increases the chance that the reader won’t have it installed.

Post Images

Use a good post image that really coordinates well with the topic of your article. This is a great way to grab the readers attention.

If you’re pretty good at using Photoshop, try creating your own custom images to make your posts stand out.

This may be straying a little off topic.

Headings and Subheadings

Make sure that your headings and subheadings stand out from the rest of the text. Doing so allows for easy scanning of articles. As you can see below, even though the heading is larger than the body, it’s not distinguishable enough.

Make sure that you also use a heirarchy of H1, H2, H3 etc. Doing so allows your article to be displayed nicely in RSS feeds.

Ordered and Unordered Lists

Number your lists if they are in a particular order. Bullets have their place and work fine when the list can be freely random.

Long Paragraphs

Just a couple of sentences within a fixed column can take up several lines. While we are used to writing three or four sentences in a paragraph, you can get away with just a couple on the web.

Lengthy paragraphs don’t exactly make for easy reading.

What did I miss?

There are hundreds of useful tips on the subject of readability. Do you know of a few good ones that really contribute to online readability?

Written by Shawn Ramsey

When I’m not brewing my own beer or hiking through the local National Forest, I’m busy building a more beautiful web.

@shawnramz → / bitdrips.com →


16 Comments

  1. Kevin Reichard December 9, 2009 at 11:38 am #

    Excellent article. One niggling point: Google does say its best-performing text ads are in the midst of content. (Google, helpfully, sends out optimization tips monthly.) It is very true.

    • Shawn Ramsey December 9, 2009 at 1:48 pm #

      Kevin – You’re right, Google does state that ads in the middle of content perform well. I find them quite distracting though.

  2. Justin December 9, 2009 at 12:24 pm #

    What you missed:

    Line height.

    Letter spacing.

    More on font choices.

    Typography in general.

    • Shawn Ramsey December 9, 2009 at 1:56 pm #

      Justin – I couldn’t agree with you more. Those are all important points that should be taken into consideration. I probably should of at least touched on line height and spacing.

    • Tony December 9, 2009 at 2:23 pm #

      True dat. Nevertheless, a very readable article indeed!

  3. Regine Lambrecht December 9, 2009 at 2:35 pm #

    I would add “write an introductive paragraph for long pages”, that is aimed at catching the interest of the reader

  4. om ipit December 9, 2009 at 4:22 pm #

    nice tips and thanks 4 share
    i hate too many ads on weblog
    and sure, i hate google adsense too :)

  5. mare December 9, 2009 at 4:30 pm #

    Really nice list, but I was gonna say something about the content . Nice readability would be always be more addictive with something important in it

  6. Design Informer December 9, 2009 at 9:25 pm #

    Excellent article. These are all things that I try to practice on my blog.

  7. Bas December 10, 2009 at 1:32 am #

    Also keep in mind that the most ideal line length is somewhere around 75-85 characters.

  8. Helena December 10, 2009 at 11:35 am #

    Congrats and thanks for the article :)

  9. Designi1 December 12, 2009 at 6:59 pm #

    Nice article… you focus lots of good points that needs great concerns how to use them. You may talk also about typography contrast, weight, size, line height, color background and why white or back… :D but its another kind of details. You did here a great job!

  10. Ev January 3, 2010 at 1:12 pm #

    Make take-home messages prominent, so i can just scan them if I don’t want to read the whole article (headers may not contain all of them).

    Make text easily scannable at all costs.

  11. Matt March 20, 2010 at 8:10 pm #

    Great article…But, what about removing those clutters and reading clean article. Remove the clutter from an article and read whats important to you..

    http://www.tutkiun.com/2010/03/improve-readability-of-web-pages.html

  12. Bye Video July 15, 2011 at 11:45 pm #

    This is the perfect blog for anyone who wants to know about this topic. You know so much its almost hard to argue with you (not that I really would want). You definitely put a new spin on a subject thats been written about for years. Great stuff, just great!

  13. Jeremy Dolezal December 10, 2011 at 5:44 pm #

    I have been checking out some of your articles and it’s pretty clever stuff. I will surely bookmark your website.

Leave a Reply