Article Written by Rebecca Allen
If it’s been more than 10 years since you left school, the majority of your written assignments would have been just that – written, by hand. And this is still probably true even for more recent school leavers. You would have received comments from teachers not just on how engaging the content of your essay on The Seven Life Processes was but also on how well it was written physically. If only your handwriting had been more legible, your scientific prowess would’ve received the respect it deserved.
In the age of the World Wide Web, however, there is no requirement for a pen in hand (with the exception of an optional stylus for touch screen devices) and you have a multitude of fonts, styles and layouts to choose from to present your information. So assuming the content of your website is as enticing as an ice cold drink on a hot summer’s day, how can you make it readable for your audience? Read on for some Top Tips on Typography.
In every paragraph there are 3 primary dimensions – font size, line height and line width. Whilst the first two are vertical in nature, the latter is horizontal and the main aim of your typography should be to relate these dimensions in a way that presents information in an orderly fashion. As with many naturally occurring things in our universe (plants, animals, galaxies, etc), the golden ratio is often quoted as the reason behind why certain objects have a recognizable scale and proportionality. It is also quoted as being a major factor in typography in relating the three aforementioned dimensions together. Without getting more mathematical, the point is to make sure you consider the relationship between these dimensions to ensure your website text is clear and structurally sound.
tHe UsE oF cAsE
How to use case to present the words that make up a title is a typographical consideration that draws on both traditional grammatical teachings and personal preference. Perhaps the most common form nowadays is to adopt sentence case for titles so that only the first word and any proper nouns (names of people, places, etc) are capitalised. The best advice is probably to see what case looks/feels right for a title and then apply the same approach to all other titles on your website/marketing material for consistency.
Less fonts = more
Although it’s easy to be tempted by the aforementioned multitude of fonts available, using fewer fonts should help keep your website/marketing material looking clean and readable. To allow for variation whilst still avoiding a cluttered feel, try using one font for your headings, one for your text and another for your logo or subtitles.
As well as the smaller scale typography features mentioned above, it’s also important to consider the layout of your text on a wider scale. Standard paragraph display options available to you are align text left/right, centre text or justify text. The simple choice may be to opt for justify but whether justified text looks better or uses the space more proficiently than other text alignment styles is debatable. The key thing to think about is readability and how well your content sits on the page. Remember as with web design, there is more to typography than things looking pretty (see More than just a pretty face blog).
Colour & contrast
As alluded to in the Richard of York blog, you should always consider how colour can impact on the readability of your website text. Generally, a darker font on a lighter background (at the right level of contrast) will fulfill most users’ requirements for easy to read content.
Finally, visitors to your website shouldn’t have to read between the lines. Be bold with your content, be consistent with your style and your website will speak for itself.