Writing Right for the Web… content needs contrast for easy reading
Video content in Boston University’s online Annual Report 2012 is very strong. That’s why I picked it for the February 17 Link of the Week.. 25 short, engaging videos are used to illustrate the 5 main topics included in the publication.
But nothing is perfect, is it? In the Link of the Week report I noted a weak point: “low contrast between text and background in some of the primary sections makes reading a bit of a challenge.”
Design for “readability, not just looking pretty”
For Ann Mary Quarandillo, marketing communications manager and editor of Evergreen Magazine at The Evergreen State College, that was an understatement. Her opinion after visiting the site is well worth repeating:
“These videos and the overall idea of the site are very effective. However, as you say, text IS still important. So why is the font on this website so eminently unreadable? I had to give up after a couple of pages, because it was so frustrating not being able to read the thin and faint titles and captions, or even the navigation bar at the top. Not the first time I’ve seen this recently, and it’s very frustrating. Part of web ‘design’ should be readability, not just looking pretty!”
What we have here is an instance of creative design taking precedence over ease of reading. Everything else aside, there just isn’t enough contrast between the color of the text and the color of the background for easy reading.
Contrast level is critical. If people have to struggle to read your content, most people won’t do it. Black on white is safest. If you vary that, aim for as similar a contrast level as possible. “Don’t make them squint” is still a maxim to remember.
Create “killer web content”… that people can read
To borrow a phrase from my partner Gerry McGovern, you can write “killer web content” for your website. But if you make it difficult to read, that content will not be king of anything.
New “Writing Right for the Web” Conference in May
The second 2-day “Writing Right for the Web” conference is happening May 24-25 in Atlanta. We’ll explore in depth not only “writing right” on traditional websites, but for social media and mobile sites as well.