Part Five
Provide Readability

© 1998 by Walt Howe
(last revised February 6, 2010)
When you have a lot of text on a page, never let the text flow to the full width of the page. It is much harder to read text that runs from edge to edge than text that is limited to a fixed width column. After the first few lines, it is hard to pick out the right line to return your eye to on the left after you read way over to the right, and it slows down reading and comprehension speeds. A lot of people dislike reading onscreen, and this is one of the main reasons for it. But it is easy to control column width with tables, and almost all browsers support this use of tables. Try for a maximum width for text of 400 pixels (50 or 60 characters with typical fonts), and less is better. This column is 350 pixels. View your pages and judge for yourself how readable they are. For some types of pages, consider using two columns of text if text is the main content on the page.

Another consideration is to avoid using very small print just to pack a lot of material onto a screen. There are lots of people who cannot read fine print at all, and why annoy them! It is better to break your page into mulitple screens, if necessary.

Also provide good contrast between text and backgrounds. Some people like the looks of gray text on a blue background. Some types of colorblindness make this text invisible. Don't rely on contrasting colors; rely on contrasting light and dark.

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Part Six

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