When it comes to web and email design, layout is critical.
Using font sizes that are too small or large makes your page become unreadable. As a general tip, maintaining your website or email’s usability is the result of having an clean design with a logical flow of information.
After reading many articles on the matter, it came to my attention that the way people read is far more complex than one would originally think. There are numerous factors, but for the sake of our readers, we are only going to talk about people’s perception to different font sizes and line lengths in regards to web and email design.
Patterns on how people read
Laura Franz stated that people typically read in three different ways depending on their intent and the environment that they are in. That being said, one common form of reading is skimming. As stated in many of our blog posts before, eye tracking studies show that people focus more on the left-hand side of the page rather than the right. This is because almost all pieces of text align their content to the left, making it instinctual for people to fix their eyes there. Researchers have created various heat maps on this topic that clearly display this fascinating phenomenon. Skimming is when people are casually reading over a piece of text just to understand the gist of what the writer is saying.
Another pattern is when people read text a little bit more closely because they have a specific intent on what they are looking for. Purposeful reading takes more time and conscious effort than just skimming over a piece of text.
The third most common pattern is concentrated reading. In this case, readers typically read almost every word of the content. This frequently occurs if the reader is unfamiliar with the topic presented in the text, or if they are trying to study the information.
The term readability has more elements to it than just a decipherable piece of text. For content to be readable, the experience of reading should be comfortable and pleasant. Your reader should not have to put any extra effort into reading your web page, email campaign or blog than they need to (such as zooming in if the text is too small or zooming out if it’s too big). Since, in this day in age the use of mobile devices are increasing dramatically, you must ensure that your email is responsive on all devices – with text sizes that are easily readable.
For this reason, many designers go through the struggle of having to pick between a font type or size that looks great to them with one that will make the experience of reading more comfortable for their readers. An important idea to remember here is that every person’s reading experience is different. As mentioned before, the environment, mood or even the level of understanding your reader has on the specific topic they’re reading about alters their experience. If your reader is in a noisy and distracting environment, then it’s harder for them to pay attention. If there isn’t enough light on the device they are viewing your email on, having to squint or zoom in on the page changes their encounter with your content.
Therefore, it’s important for designers to recognize that choosing a comfortable and readable layout is far more crucial than picking one that looks more trendy.
The ideal font size
When it comes to font size, everything is about balance. If you prefer to use a smaller font size, the spaces between your lines need to be larger. Research has shown that small sizes with little spacing makes it more difficult for readers to comfortably get through content. In this scenario, mistakenly rereading the same line over and over again commonly occurs.
If you’d rather use a larger font size, than large spaces between your text is not necessary. In fact, having text that is too large with too much space will create just as uncomfortable an experience as if it were too small. When people read large sized text, their eyes must scan the content vertically and horizontally, in order to perceive the information that was too large in their original field of vision.
The ideal line length
People write with different purposes. Whether it’s poetry or a simple paragraph, the writer’s intent and style affects the emotional and visual experience your reader is going to have. If you do not wish to trigger emotions in your reader from differing line lengths – a prevalent technique used by poets – then it’s vital to design your content in a way that’s convenient for your writing style.
Here’s our rule of thumb: each line should fall in the range of 50 – 90 characters. 50 characters is equivalent to a line that goes to about half of the page and 90 characters is equivalent to a line that goes to the end of a full page. If your line lengths are shorter or longer, your reader will have to readjust their instinctual reading pattern.
Frequent line breaks cause an unsmooth train of thought, whereas too few line breaks makes it harder to understand the content. It is easier to understand a piece of text if you are able to pause at the appropriate times because it separates one thought from the next.
Jason Santa Maria is credited with a very interesting and impactful quote that perfectly sums up how we should all approach typography today:
Slapping words on a page won’t ensure good communication, just as smashing your hands across a piano won’t make for a pleasant composition. The experience of reading and the effectiveness of our message is determined by both what we say and how we say it.
Email templates by Mailify
Our team works day after day designing email templates by utilizing all of their knowledge on human perception and effective graphic design. Take a look at our fully customizable and responsive templates by creating a Freemium account without the need for any credit card information. Have questions or looking for advice? Give us a call, send us an email, or shoot us a tweet – we’re happy to help.