Everyone reading this has visited a blog site. Many of you likely read multiple blogs. What makes one blog greater than another, assuming the content is the same or nearly the same? Most of the time it’s simply aesthetics. More specifically, it’s readability. So how do you make your blog easier to read?
I’ve come across numerous blogs and websites in general that are, at their core, websites with great potential. I could actually get into using them and would be interested in coming back; however, one factor turned me off and likely demolished any chance of attracting loyal users: readability. I did not use them again, or left nearly instantly because the sites had one or more of these issues:
Text was scrunched
Ads cluttered the page
Images cluttered the page
Font size was ridiculously small or large
Font type was plain ugly or dull
The choice of font colors (and/or color contrast) was pathetic
The content was nearly impossible to skim
Save it for Instagram
There’s a time and place for everything, and pictures are no exception. How many times have you visited a website or a blog post that was absolutely smothered in pictures for seemingly no reason at all? Probably more than a couple. When used properly, images have purpose. For starters, some blogs are based off of images, such as photography sites and blog posts on designer outfits. But when they are not the primary focus of the blog post, images are most often used to display a point that you were trying to make. For example, if you’re trying to explain how to use an element of html code, you could show a snapshot of what that code looks like when used properly. To some people, this is easier to understand than a block of text explaining it. But other sites make the reader feel overwhelmed.
Use your images to break up your text and to further enforce the main point you were trying to make. This section is not to say never use images, however. Actually, to increase readability, I highly recommend using images. They attract readers and encourage them to read to the end…not to mention the post looks much nicer with images! If you need to know more about using images in blog posts, check out Ann Smarty’s post.
Keeping ads where they belong
It’s obvious that every website must be funded from something. Sites aren’t free no matter what someone tells you; it will cost you something down the line. As a matter of fact, some websites can be downright expensive. To fund your site, you may consider using advertisements. Most often, ads are found in the sidebar of a website. Some bloggers consider their ad placement to be a strategy game and place them wherever their readers will find them first and quickly. Although selling the ads is a way to make money, they are also not supposed to be the most prevalent images on the page. Ads should be used to attract readers to other places that may be of interest to them. For example, on the sidebar of this page there are ads that are more than likely web design-related. If you’re interested, you’ll click them. If not, you’ll move on.
Text is the center of your blog post. The point you’re trying to make is the most important element of a blog post. Everything else is extra support. The text is most often the point you’re trying to make. So naturally it deserves a lot of attention. Your text must be within a margin, but keep its readability fluid. Of course your writing programs such as Microsoft Word align your text to fit the margins, but the human eye may perceive it differently. Images can make your text seem unaligned just by the positioning of the image. Take a note on how this page is laid out. It follows a fairly easy to follow template:
Sometimes the images naturally make more sense next to the text, but other times it throws the text way off on a tangent that makes it difficult to read. Text should not be scrunched under any circumstances. Keeping your text in the margins while ensuring your page does not impair the fluidity of your text is a great way to improve your readability.
Font sizes and colors
Continuing from the previous section, your text is the center of your blog post. A user will not read your post if they literally can’t read it. Although this sounds like a basic element to understand, it seems like many bloggers do not understand the concept of using font sizes and font colors. Size does matter…at least in the World Wide Web. The size of your font should follow a simple system. Find a font size that’s easy to read, but isn’t too large. Most often this size is 12, but some websites resize the size 12 font to look seemingly smaller than the rest of the website, so it has to be larger. For example, maybe your title/header should be size 18 or 20, whereas your subheaders are size 14 or 16 and the size of the body is 12. Once you decide on a size, stick to it!
Your font colors should follow a similar system. Find a system you and your readers like and stick to it. For example, link colors can be changed easily to match your site’s custom color scheme. Inspiredm.com uses a reddish-orange color and you can find it throughout a post. The links are a similar shade as well as the descriptions at the bottom of an article. These colors are easily changed, but you can find a color that stands out fairly easily. The problem many bloggers find is that their background may not be white. It may that solid reddish-orange, blue, black, or even a shade of green. Whatever your color, you need to find text colors that have good contrast with the surrounding colors. Choose colors that are not close to any of the background colors for your links, not other shades of that color. Finding the perfect colors can increase the appearance of your site as well as its overall readability. W3C recommends a 3:1 ratio and even gives examples that could be useful when choosing your colors.
Having an interesting font in terms of typography is extremely important; however, some font types can reduce the readability of your blog. The most common fonts, Arial, Times New Roman, and Calibri are not popular for being plain; they are easy to read. A cursive font may look nice, but it makes longer to read and can frustrate a reader if they don’t know what that letter says. The font type you choose should be stylish, of course; however, keep it readable. The overall purpose of your font is to provide the user with the best Web experience possible in the text of your website. If they can’t understand it because the font type is just plain weird, then they are more likely to leave the page or your website all together.
We’re Skimmers at Heart
Let’s be honest here: how many of you read this post word for word? Not many. We’re all skimmers at heart and life is busy. A blog post should be easy to skim and find what you’re looking for. Use these tips to make increase your blog’s readability:
Use clearly defined headings and subheadings
Use bullet points and lists
Bold the important stuff
If the post is extensively long, make it easier to find each section with links (Back to Top button, links to each section at the top, etc.)
The best way to improve your site’s readability is to keep the following tips in mind:
Use an easy-to-read font type
Use an easy-to-read font size and color
Use images only when necessary
Move your ads out of the body
Keep text organized and properly spaced
Author bio: Ryan Gavin is an associate of Ignition72, a web design company from Baltimore. He loves to write on web design, technology, web security, and gaming trends.