Writing Right for the Web: Carewords Quotes on Font Size and Content Density
We added an option for an open-ended question to Customer Centric Index (CCI) surveys about 9 months ago. That feature has been far more popular than anticipated. At least 50 percent and sometimes over 70 percent of the survey respondents answer this question:
- “If you could change one thing about our website, what would you change and why would you change it?”
And so hundreds of visitors to higher education websites are adding comments that expand on the regular survey statisitics. These web visitors come from a variety of audiences: alumni, future students, current students, faculty and staff, and parents. Whatever the background, their recommendations are remarkably similar.
Dense Blocks of Text Drive People Away
When people first come to a web page, they scan quickly in search of content that interests them. Dense blocks of text make that difficult, often impossible, to do.
You can’t force people to read.
Every page on your website… every page… should include subheads and bullet points that quickly communicate the key points of the page in 5-seconds or less. Keep paragraphs to no more than 5 or 6 lines of text. Keep most sentences as simple as possible. Hint: If you have to use semi-colons, your sentence is getting too long.
The first paragraph on a page is an especially bad place to “go long” on content presentation.
In their own words, here are responses from some of our CCI survey takers:
- “Simplify the page content, because I’m coming to learn something in particular, rather than to read a book, per se. I like books, just not on web sites.”
- “Easier to read with less paragraphs and more bullets.”
- “Some of the pages have too many words on them.”
- “There is too much plain text on the home page. It would be better to give brief explanations and have links for further information.”
Font Size: Don’t Make Them Squint… Give Visitors Control
This might seem really basic but many websites need to pay more attention to the size of the font used to present content in the center of the page. Of course, different people can reasonably prefer different font sizes. One solution: an easy-to-see tool that lets visitors increase or decrease the font size on whatever page they are reading.
- “Have bigger print, because the print is a little too small right now. It is harder to read with small print.”
- “I would make the font size a little bigger because my friends and I have to look close on the screen.”
- “Some of the font is too small and should be enlarged.”
Especially for Mobile Websites
Everything here about content density and font size is even more important on mobile-friendly websites that people will access from small screens on their smartphones.
That’s all for now.