Most websites are crammed with small text that is a pain to read. Why? There is no reason for squeezing so much information onto the screen. It’s just a stupid collective mistake that dates back to a time when screens were really, really small. So:
Don’t tell us to adjust the font size
We don’t want to change our browser settings every time we visit a website!
Don’t tell us busy pages look better
Crowded websites don’t look good
: they look nasty. Filling pages with stuff has never helped usability. It’s laziness that makes you throw all kinds of information at us. We want you to think and preselect what is important. We don’t want to do your work.
Don’t tell us scrolling is bad
Because then all websites are bad. There is nothing wrong with scrolling. Nothing at all. Just as there is nothing wrong with flipping pages in books.
Don’t tell us text is not important
Don’t tell us to get glasses
lick ing your screen, lean back (!)
and continue reading in a relaxed position.
Five Simple Rules
1. Standard font size for long texts
The font size you are reading right now is
not big . It’s the text size browsers display by default. It’s the text size browsers were intended to display.
don’t want to click bigger or smaller buttons and we
don’t want to change our preferences.
want to read straight away. want you to adjust to our settings,
and the other way around.
is more difficult to create a good layout
with a big font size, but that
difficulty will help you design a simpler,
clearer site. Cramming a site with information isn’t difficult, but making it simple and
easy-to-use is . At first, you ’ll be
shocked how big the default text is . But after a day , you won’t want to see anything smaller than font-size 100% or 1em for the
main text. It looks big at first, but once you use it you quickly realize why all browser makers chose this as
the default text size .
2. Active white space
Let your text breathe. Using white space is not a designer’s nerdy issue. It’s not about taste.
“The width of the column must be proportioned to the size of the type. Overlong columns are wearying to the eye and also have an adverse psychological effect. Overshort columns can also be disturbing because they interrupt the flow of reading and put the reader off by obliging the eye to change lines too rapidly.”
Josef Muller-Brockmann, Grid Systems
Having air around the text reduces the stress level,
as it makes
it much easier to focus on the essence. You don’t need to fill the whole window.
That white space looks nicer is not a side effect: it’s the logic consequence
of functional design. Who said websites need to be crammed with stuff?
Muller-Brockmann: “The question of the column width is not merely one of design or format; the question of legibility is of equal importance.”
Please make sure that the line width (text column width, also called “measure”) is not too wide, and that you add room on the left and right to make it easy for the eye to jump. We don’t want to adjust either the font size or window size. When we open a website, we just want to read away. Column widths that scale are nice; never-ending text lines all across the screen are not.
The basic rule is: 10-15 words per line. For liquid layouts, at 100% font size, 50% column width (in relation to window size) is a good benchmark for most screen resolutions.
3. Reader friendly line height
Here is what
the reading specialist says:
“Lines that are too narrowly set impair reading speed because the upper and lower line are both taken in by the eye at the same time The eye cannot focus on excessively close lines and … the reader expends energy in the wrong place and tires more easily. The same also holds true for lines that are too widely spaced.”
The default HTML l ine height is too small. If you
increase the line height, the text
be comes more readable. 140% leading is a
good benchmark .
4. Clear color contrast
This should not even be necessary to say
. But if you still believe
you can get away with one of the following combinations…
- light grey text on a lighter grey background
- “silver” colored text on a snow white background
- grey text on a yellow background
- yellow text on a red background
- green text on a red background, and so on…
…then you are not a web designer, but just
a designer with an attitude. If you insist you are a web designer, then you have to be aware
no-one will ever know, as no-one will
ever be able to read what you say. Stop this nonsense and let us see what you type.
for screen design, an overly
strong contrast (full black and white) is not ideal either,
as the text starts to flicker.
Benchmark: #333 on #fff
5. No text in images
We want to be able to search text, copy text, save text, play with the cursor and mark text
while we read. Text in images
s pretty, but pretty is not what the web is about. It’s about communication
and information, and information needs to be readable and usable and scalable and citable and sendable.
If you can’t make your website look nice without text in images,
I am afraid that you
will have to start again from scratch .
Spread the word
If you want more websites to be readable, spread the word. Link back to this page, so people know what the 100% Easy-2-Read (100E2R) standard is all about. If you join in, I’ll be happy to list you below.
How to spread 100E2R
Write a comment with two lines about your site.
If your page is decent, I’ll list it here, regardless of whether I like your particular design or not. Of course: no porn, spam or politics, but professional competitor websites (branding, usability, design…) are very welcome.
- Asoboo: International Social Network for Japanese that want to become foreigners and foreigners that want to become Japanese.
- James Starkie: James Starkie is a graphic artist/designer and his website is a nice showcase for decent, simple 100E2R design.
- Praegnanz: German weblog. Indeed 100% easy to read.
- Dadako: Internationally acclaimed pixelpusher Hawken King is currently redesigning his website according to 100E2R. iA is particularly proud we could convert him. So far, he’s updated his blog. We can’t wait to see the currently hidden treasures (like the work he did for Nintendo) of his amazing portfolio integrated in a format that’s easy to browse and read.
- Kilian Muster: Typographer, blogger and podcaster living in Japan. Very nice 100E2R example.
- Glorum: Very intriguing Wiki-posting-blackboard-Web 2.0 thing, still in Gamma stage. Haven’t found out what it is, but it is on a good path.
- Engtech: Geeky stuff like blogging, programming, general nerdery, internet trends, marketing, how-to guides…
- Blue Fountain Blog: They say: “Don’t look at our main site whatever you do.”
- Protos: Creative stuff by Kristian T, regarding Internet culture, innovation, UI, branding and unlimited success.
- NVAC: The National Visualization and Analytics Center is a national and international resource providing strategic leadership and coordination for visual analytics technology and tools. NVAC supports the Department of Homeland Security’s mission to secure our homeland and protect the American people.
- Corum: Corum Web Designs specializes in simple website designs. We don’t do Flash, Java, Multimedia or database driven shopping carts.
- TagCrowd: Blog for the TagCrowd web app where you can roll your own tag clouds from any text.
- Jens: He writes mostly about web, XHTML and CSS stuff.
- HTML-Experts: Transforming screen design into optimized HTML/CSS prototypes.
- De Amicis: De Amicis is a small company whose mission is to help software development companies test their work.
- Connexin: Heiko’s website with (German) info on all sorts of themes.
- Gwersi Cymraeg: A blog in Welsh, promoting the Welsh. As far as I can tell…
- rsart: “A games industry site, where I generally talk rubbish but every now and then try to dole out useful advice to people who want a job making games.”
- Southsea Republic: Cameron Riley’s blog.
- Yalf: Yalf is an Aachen based web development agency. The focus is on creating and maintaining accessible and usable web sites conforming to web standards.