The simple answer to that is NO!
But this is nothing to do with what you do, or don’t do, on your first date. That’s nothing to do with me. Or copywriting. Or websites.
What I’m talking about is accessibility and typography. And as I have said before, if you make your copy hard to read and nobody bothers, you’d be better off going to the pub.
You’re probably wondering what I’m banging on about. I’ll explain…
How many websites do you see where the text stretches all the way across the screen? We see it time and time again, and frankly, it irks me.
Sadly, not enough web designers or graphic designers take the time or trouble to learn about accessibility. Is it not included in the syllabus at design school? Or are the culprits the self-taught masses who think all they need to do is load a WordPress template to create a cutting edge website?
Most copywriters and marketers don’t bother to learn about typography either. They centre text on their websites and use grey print on white so it’s hard to read. I’m pleased to say the Copywriting Training Ltd includes typography basics in its courses!
WORD-right’s sister company WEB-right, made a point of studying typography because it’s such an important subject. As copywriters and web developers, it’s our job to make sure our clients’ copy and websites deliver the best results.
Take a lesson from the newspapers
Think about a newspaper. Have you ever wondered why they are arranged in columns? It’s nothing to do with squeezing in more stories or how their presses are set up. Quite simply, it’s because it’s easier to read that way.
So why is that? Think about being in the front row of a large screen cinema. You can’t take in the full screen without moving your head, or at least your eyes, from side to side. It’s the same in print or on a website. The movement is slight, but it’s there nonetheless.
If the line of text is too long, we have to work harder to find the start of the next line. We can’t easily read it at a glance. Ultimately this means your reader might bounce out of your website because they can’t be bothered or don’t have time to make the effort.
The same applies if your columns are too narrow. Again, the reader has to work hard jumping from line to line. That makes reading almost ‘stuttery’ and uncomfortable.
Of course, unless the reader knows about typography, they won’t know why it’s hard to read. This is all a subconscious process. But remember, the average website visit is just a few seconds. You might have spent hours writing your copy, but the average person won’t sit down, put their feet up and read it. Sorry to disappoint you. Instead, they will scan read it looking for visual ‘clues’ to tell them if your site is what they’re looking for. That’s why it’s critical you do all you can to make it easy to read.
Optimum width for text
Early research recommended the optimum width for readability was around 50 to 60 characters per line. More recent research has shown that online reading efficiency and speed is improved with line lengths of up to 95 characters (including spaces). This is all to do with how our eyes work and in particular, the macula.
That’s one of the reasons websites often have ‘side bars’ or boxes on one (or both) sides of the page. This reduces the width of the text as well as adding to the overall look of the site. Pictures or graphics can be used to reduce the line length in much the same way.
What about mobiles?
Of course, some bright sparks will smugly say … ‘everyone looks at websites on their mobiles these days, so it doesn’t matter’. That’s obviously a good point because the screen on a mobile presents quite differently.
But just how many people look at your website from a mobile device? Do you know? Have you ever checked your website stats to find out? And perhaps more importantly, should you be discounting the millions of people who still browse online using their PCs? However, that’s anther story for another time.
Whether your website is most often viewed on a PC, a Mac or a mobile device, it’s important to remember that if your copy can’t easily be read, it’s doing you no favours. And that means the time you spent writing it was wasted. Who’s going to the pub then?