Almost every week I tell a client that there's a big problem with their marketing content.
It's not the subject matter, writing style, grammar, or even typos.
The problem is that their content is simply hard to read because of its formatting.
I've seen websites with wonderful content that were simply unreadable due to poor formatting.
You've taken so much time to write a blog post or service description and no one reads it.
You, the author, probably don't even realize it because you're too close; you've no objectivity.
The good news is that improving readability is easy.
And once you realize the mistakes you're making, you'll never make them again.
The following are seven arranging botches that make it difficult for perusers to peruse your substance.
I'm going to focus on formatting content on websites and blogs since that's where we read most online marketing content.
- 1. text that's too small.
This is the most common text formatting mistake. If someone has to squint to read your text, you have a problem.
And did you know that more than 50% of people now use mobile devices to browse the web? This makes little text significantly harder to peruse.
These days, with websites moving to WordPress, page widths are wider than ever, so small text gets lost in the vast expanse of the screen.
How big should your text be? My recommendation is no smaller than 16px, but 20px is becoming more common. A larger IS is better.
- 2. text that's too light.
I blame the designers for this. The lighter text looks cool. I don't have any idea why, however, it simply does...
And even worse is the text that's both small and bright!
But after you make a cool impression on your website, can anyone even read your text?
No, they can't!
Your poor readers! They can't read what you've written.
How dark should your text be? I recommend no lighter than 85% black. This will make your text a little brighter and less garish (i.e. cooler) than 100% black.
- 3. text that's too wide on the page.
Now that you have a big, wide page to write on, format your text from edge to edge!
Please don't do this.
Adding wide blocks of text to already small, the light text is a major reading disaster.
Instead, you need some white space to narrow the text blocks on the page.
On a site like Medium.com (which has millions of readers), the font size is 21 px and the margins on each side of the text take up about 50% of the screen space.
Another way to shrink your text block is to have a narrow left or right margin and then a wider margin on the opposite side with graphical content or page menus.
You can see this on my blog pages.
I recommend that your main text block take up no more than 60% of the width of your screen.
- 4. paragraphs that are too long
Long paragraphs are just as problematic as smaller, lighter, or wider text. Immense sections are essentially difficult to peruse on the web.
A web page doesn't read like a book. Furthermore, similar section rules don't make a difference.
It's OK, to have short paragraphs.
Even one-sentence paragraphs.
Do you understand that?
I recommend that paragraphs be no longer than five lines. If you pack just one key idea into each paragraph, readership will skyrocket.
- 5. poor choice of font
This point is more difficult because there are a lot of fonts nowadays.
I usually recommend a legible serif font like "Georgia" or a sans serif font like "Open Sans".
But be careful when mixing fonts. You don't believe your site should seem to be a payoff note.
It's common to use a bold serif or sans serif font for headings and the opposite for content.
This is where a designer can be helpful and give your web pages a consistent, professional look.
- 6. missing bold print
This is my secret weapon for improving readability. You don't see this online often enough.
If your text is just black/grey text with no variation, there's no focal point to draw the eye.
Here's what happens:
A reader comes to your page and sees nothing but solid color text. Nothing attracts the eye.
The subconscious says, "Where's the good stuff? Do I've to dig through all that text to find it? Damn, this is too exhausting, let me go somewhere else!"
But if you highlight the first few sentences (sometimes even the first few sentences) in bold, the eye is drawn, and it pays immediate dividends.
The reader is focused and immediately understands what your content is about, and is encouraged to read on.
If you use a lot of bold in your text, the reader can quickly search for the meaning. And even if he doesn't read the whole page, he gets the gist.
One mistake you should avoid with bold: You should almost never bold words or phrases in the middle of a paragraph. That simply makes it harder to peruse.
If you want to emphasize something in the middle of a paragraph, use italics instead.
- 7. don't use subheadings
Another good way to increase readability is to divide pages by subheadings.
These simply text in a larger font, often colored and/or bolded, as I've done in this article.
Subheadings serve to organize the most important sections of your content.
All of this increases readability, and that's what you want when a visitor comes to your website, right?