It is clear by now.
Two main components of a successful website are attractive design and useful content.
It is a rather simple, and yet such a great formula that can help you increase number of visits to your website.
But, only if you do not neglect one extremely important component: readability.
Your website is a meeting place for you and your customers.
Despite of frequent use of images, videos and graphics, text in its purest form is still what occupies the biggest space on your eCommerce site.
And you want for your customers to be able to spot it and read it without obstacles.
But the thing is – we do not read quite as same offline and online.
And knowing the differences can have a huge impact on the visitor’s dilemma – leave now, or stay for a while.
Different reading habits
Offline reading has a certain physical dimension that helps us get more intuitive about the content we are reading.
We get to touch the book and turn the page.
There is a certain rhythm that we create and a clear idea of our progress as we read more.
It helps us get around better and easily form a clear mental image of the text.
Reading online is different in so many ways.
When reading from a screen, fatigue is quick to appear, and much faster than when reading a book.
Also, there is a popular belief that people tend to be less concentrated when reading from a screen as oppose to a book.
This belief is common, but it is most probable that its roots belong to a cultural domain, since we form the habit of reading from the paper early in the childhood.
Researchers have shown that 79% of visitors do not pay attention to details.
They simply scan web content.
Their reading is selective and nonlinear.
Their eyes follow what is interesting, trying to navigate towards the segments of text that will give them important information.
Also, they gravitate towards keywords that they need.
Meaning – ability to read and understand what was written, will primarily be affected by how easy it is to read the text.
There are proven theories showing clearly that readers tend to read in a form of a letter “F”.
They scan the text following a pattern – reading in two horizontal lines followed by a vertical one.
Then, they scroll all the way down and read couple more lines, usually a lot less than they previously did.
In the end, they scan left side of the text in one vertical move. The last step is what forms vertical line completing “F” letter.
Writing for web
Well, let’s just say that TL;DR is not there for no reason.
What makes a visitor leave website in a matter of seconds is the idea itself that endless rows of text need to be red just to get one simple valuable information.
So, here are some basic rules to follow when writing for web:
1. One idea per paragraph
Split the text.
Be concise and don’t let your paragraphs be long.
Your article with look a lot cleaner and it won’t seem it is too much of an effort.
2. Make your subtitles informative
Do not exaggerate with puns and riddles.
Trying to incorporate humour can be great, and it can certainly make your style recognisable in the future.
But it will not say much to your impatient readers that are only scanning.
They need to be persuaded right away that reading your text will be beneficial for them.
3. Use Lists
Using lists is a great way to give information to your readers and keep it clear and concise, especially when it comes to instructions or advices.
4. Writing from the top to the bottom
This is commonly used principle.
It suggest putting your conclusion in the very beggining of the article.
Visitors will read first couple of sentences paying it a lot of attention and being very focused, while continuing to scan the rest of the article.
Having this kind of behaviour in mind, you could put the very essence of your text in the beggining of your article.
5. Being objective
Putting everything in a rather broad perspective, we could claim that people online are reluctant to give undivided attention to articles written exclusively to promote a product or a service.
Deciphering an article that is filled with marketing jargon or selling pitches will mean that they have to put in additional effort and can cause your bounce rate to go sky high.
Fonts and “Gods Particle”
It is all about the content.
That doesn’t mean however, that the looks doesn’t count.
One of the stories that illustrates this best is the one about Higgs boson, a particle in physics sometimes referred to as the God Particle.
It is known to be one of the most expensive projects conducted by CERN’s scientists.
Soon, Twitter imploded with comments, and the story became viral.
CERN however turned this event into their own benefit when they published on April 1st that from then on, all of their official channels of communication will use exclusively – you guessed it: Comic Sans. Good one, CERN, good one!
Web typography guidelines
Typography is not only about choosing the right font.
In order to make your content readable, you have to pay attention to every single detail – font size, contrast, line spacing, number of characters in one row etc.
There is a great website called – “Oh, My Eyes!” and that was created with one purpose only – show biggest fails when it comes to typography by analysing fifty popular web sites.
Researches have show that majority of websites use Arial in text body (28%), Verdana is used by 20% and Lucida Grande by modest 10%. Around 60% of websites uses Sans Serif fonts, and the most popular choice is Georgia.
Using contrast fonts is also very common, and usually it’s Arial and Georgia.
Font size recommendation are in range from 12 to 24 pixels, although some encourage using 16 pixels fonts. Recommended size for titles is between 18 and 29 pixels.
Background has to have a proper contrast as oppose to text.
Smashing Magazine analysed websites and determined that white background is definitely the most used.
Also, designers avoided to use pure black as font colour, choosing preferably lighter shades of black.
White background and black letters contrast is the most pleasant one for the eyes, especially when it comes to large amounts of text.
One of the classic rules in typography says that 55-75 characters is optimal number.
However researchers have shown that most websites follows 75-85 rule.
The reason could be that the reason behind it is using imagery which imposed wider column.
Don’t waste your customer’s time
What is specific about reading online is that it represents a special challenge for both – designers and copywriters.
The way that the page appears will define the willingness in a reader to interact with the text.
It will reflect on how the reader will process the information and how many time he will spend on a website.
Buyers value their time and consider it precious.
They wish to find information that they need and carry on.
Which is also the reason they simply scan website pages.
Once presented with a whole chunk of text without any white space whatsoever, without informative subtitle and anything that can suggest they have found what they have been looking for, it will be easy for them to give up and leave your website without looking back.