dog reading bookMy job as a web designer does not get stale. It’s such a fast paced job that mastering good programming methodologies keeps me on my toes. I dedicate an hour a week to technical reading (outside of what I need to do on the fly for contingencies). But some of it is not very difficult, technically. It’s more a matter of analyzing trends.

My main focus lately is usability (how easy a site is to use) and one aspect of usability is readability – how easy information is on the eyes, how digestible the material is.

Here are some of the things I’m considering:

Text width

This article advocates limiting the width of text blocks. I’ve read that it is recommended to limit text blocks to around 600 pixels wide–longer than that and the eyes tend to get confused about where the next line continues. At the same time, I’ve seen some prominent sites with text much longer than 600 pixels wide, but such sites usually let one stretch your browser window accordingly to shorten or lengthen the width of the text block. And certainly this depends on your screen resolution as well.

Line height

The New York Times is an easy site to look at–the home page is kind of crowded but that’s understandable. But when I say it’s easy to read, I mean the individual articles. Take this article as an example. The space between the lines in the article is rather high, not set at programming defaults. It looks like 20 point to me.

But if I look at a search result page on Google, the line height is a lot shorter. I think this is because the description of the articles is what is being shown, and that’s just two lines.

If I look at an article on a Google help page, the line height is a bit taller than the height on the search results page.

Conclusion: it has been determined by this huge business that line height for articles gives a sense of spaciousness.

. . .

These are just a couple of the aspects I’m currently weighing in website design and readability, and perhaps it can give the layperson an idea of the process of deliberation web developers can go through.

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