Writing for and Reading on the Web
People tend to read a Web page differently than they do a page of print:
- They usually scan down a Web page rather than across it.
- Readers read about 25 percent more slowly from screens than from paper.
- They are generally less patient with a Web page than a printed page.
- They tend not to peruse lengthy text on a Web page.
- They tend to go to another page if they don't find what they want right away.
- They use search engines like Google and the built-in "Find" features in Web browsers to locate a word or topic on a page.
Consequently, writers for the Web must keep these facts in mind:
- Each Web page needs to be short.
- Divide a long document into multiple hyperlinked pages.
- The word count of an on-line page should be about half that of a print page.
- White space is your friend.
- Font size on a Web page is usually smaller (or appears smaller) than it does on paper. This is because the screen may be farther away from the reader than a printed page would normally be.
- Web browsers and computer operating systems have options for resizing text (usually "CTRL +" for larger and "CTRL -" for smaller), but many people are not aware of this feature.
- Serif typefaces, e.g., Times Roman, look good on paper, but on a screen they cause the eye to work harder, resulting in fatigue.
- Sans-serif typefaces, e.g., Arial, look good on a screen and are much easier on the eye.
- [NOTE: Move this item to a page about The Journal, since it is a feature of The Journal]
On the FFCI Web site, text is presented on screen in Arial font but is automatically converted to Times Roman font when the page is printed. In addition, you can view or print a copy of the original document. Beside the title to each article is a link to a print-friendly PDF version of the original article. Readers have two options for printing the article:
1) From the browser's main menu bar, select "File" then "Print."
This option may result in cropped margins, depending the browser and printer.
2) Click on the "PDF" link next to the title to obtain a copy of the original document.
- Help keep readers focused by minimizing the use of:
- multiple typefaces and sizes
- excessive indenting
- flashing/moving objects
- objects that distract the eye or interfere with the flow of reading
- Actively write for persons with disabilities:
- Have a blind person "listen" to your article, or listen to it yourself using one of the Web screen readers.
- Try to fill out a Web based form with your eyes closed.
- Imagine how you would navigate to Web page, or to a section in a page, if you were quadriplegic.
- Imagine how your images might look to a color blind person.
- Learn how a disabled person finds specific information inside a table.
- Find out how a disabled person "hears" a mathematical formula or an image?
- Explore the accessibility features available in your word processor, e.g. MS Word.
- Attend a workshop on writing for the Web.
- Website Readability - Here are the five most common Web readability faux pas:
- White or light text on a black or dark background. This is a readability no, no. Why? This is called text in low-contrast, and research has shown that text in low contrast irritates the reader and causes eye fatigue. Instead, use contrasting colors like black or dark text on a white or light-colored background. This is easier on the eyes, and much more reader-friendly.
- Huge blocks of text. Readers of web pages are notorius scanners, so break up your text into shorter, bite-sized paragraphs. There's nothing worse than trying to read a paragraph that seems to never end. Most people won't even bother to try. They'll just click away and leave your site. Also, use bullets and subheads whenever possible.
- Tiny text. Stay away from using tiny font sizes that make people squint or requires bifocals to read. Stick with 12pt font whenever possible. Or at the very least 10pt font. Conversely, don't use overly large font sizes either. And use all-capitalization sparingly.
- Fancy fonts. Whenever possible use regular or standard font types such as Times Roman, Arial or Verdana. Try to stay away from hard to read fancy fonts, such as Italic, Comic Sans or any type of cursive fonts.
- Too much clutter. So many websites I visit look like someone's attic. Clutter, clutter and more clutter. Have you ever visited a website that was so cluttered, your eyes didn't know where to begin to look? Do you know what I do when I come across a website like that? Instead of hanging around trying to figure things out, I leave. Don't over-crowd your webpages with text and graphics. Less is more. I personally live by the motto, "White space is a good thing. It's your friend.!"