The estimated reading time for this post is 3 minutes.

readability and legibilityReadability and legibility may seem to be the same thing or may seem interchangeable, but they refer to different, still connected, functions of type each with its own strength in communication.
One captures our attention and sends us the message and the other is related to how easy is it for us to read the information.

Guess which one’s which?

Legibility questions the ability of users to to see, distinguish, and recognise the characters and words in your text and readability measures the complexity of the words and sentence structure in a piece of content.

Not taking this two aspects into consideration means undermining your website.

Yes, the content is out there, the search engines index it, but the users aren’t coming and the problems occur when the alternative is just one click away. Keep it simple, clean and easy.
Your content has to survive a cost-benefit analysis. What are the costs and the benefits you bring with your content? You need to answer these two questions: first, is it a hassle for the user to stay on your website and second, what does he gain from reading your content?

When creating a website, don’t think that the users will read the entire content, page by page.

The user’s behaviour

We satisfice and by this I mean, we satisfy the minimum requirements necessary to achieve our goal. When choosing on which link to click after searching something online for example, we won’t take that decision after weighing our options and choosing the best one. We choose the first reasonable option, so the moment we find something we think will lead us to what we’re looking for, we’ll click it.

Another thing to keep in mind is that we don’t read pages, we scan them. Studies have shown that reading online is 25% slower than from a printed material and that users actually read only between 20 and 28 percent of the words on a website. So instead of reading, we scan for words that catch our eye.

You also need to understand the extent to which people are using things without even knowing how they work. This happens because most of the time, we don’t figure out how things work, we just muddle through; we don’t read instructions.
The reason we do all of this is, we’re usually in a hurry and there’s not much of a penalty if we’re guessing wrong (and because the “Back” button is the most-used feature of Web browsers), we know we don’t need to read everything and scanning helps us find the relevant things and if we find something that works, we stick to it and it usually doesn’t matter how bad it works as long as it does.

Ways to improve legibility and readability:

  • use a reasonable font size, to make it accessible for all forms of visual acuity;

  • have a high contrast between characters and background, use a plain background instead of a textured one, because it might interfere with the recognition of fine details in letterforms;

  • use a clean typeface, so choose fonts wisely; don’t make them feel like their mind is ready for more information, but it has to wait on the eyes;

  • use plainspoken words and the shorter the better;

  • pay attention to the alignment you use, because it might make text harder to read;

  • use short sentences because compound sentences put a strain on the user’s short-term memory so they makes it harder to scan;

  • try writing in the active voice;

  • get straight to the point, because the message is the most important thing; the clearer you present it, the more likely it will succeed;

  • use highlights, lists and images because they help us identity the main points, they make the content look structured and they help us to stay focused;

  • format content, Include sub-headings to break up your text; his will guide the reader’s eye and provide clear breaks. Sub-headings should also offer a brief summary of the overall content; informing anybody who doesn’t read the whole page what it is about;

Legibility and readability should be taken very seriously into consideration because this way you give users a better chance at finding what they are looking for and understanding a whole lot more of what your site has to offer. It will help you steer them to the parts of your website that you want them to see and they will feel smarter and more in control and this will bring them back.

Author: Crista Oiegas

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