Visitors expect a web page to quickly provide
the information that they want. They generally will not read long pages
of text on-line because computer screens are not as easy to read as
a printed page.
If you must present long pages of text (like
this, for example), give your visitors short-cuts, like a list of topics
with links to specific sections at the top of the page. Or, divide the
material into several pages with links from one to another.
Put the most important part of your message
at the top of the page. Statistics collected on millions of web users
show that almost half of all visitors view pages at a resolution of
800 X 600 pixels. This means is that after taking into acount the browser
toolbar, status line, and other window dressing, they might only see
20 or 25 lines of text on their screen at one time, even on a 17"
monitor. If your punch line is buried down on line 30 or 40, they will
never see it if they dont see a reason to scroll down the page.
Some of your pages need to be long and detailed;
you? Look at ours
to get an idea of what you need). Otherwise, keep your content short
and to the point:
- Use short paragraphs and sentences
- Use bullet points for lists of items
- Use headings to help users find information
- Use white space to separate topics
- Spell check every page
- Have someone else proofread each page
Text and Fonts
Anyone who uses a computer to prepare a flyer or a
brochure is used to having dozens of creative fonts, in any size that
you might want, to chose from. You also have absolute control
from size and spacing, to position on the page - over how they will
be displayed on the page.
Preparing text for the web is different in a couple
of very important ways. First, you no longer have complete control over
how the page will be displayed on the visitors screen. This is
because each web browser program, even different versions of the same
program, will display pages slightly differently. Also, the user has
choices that they can make regarding size and font that will be used
to display text. The size of their screen and resolution of the "window"
in which they view your page will also have an affect on how the text
The second difference is the limited number of fonts
that can be used to display text. The web is designed to be used by
people anywhere, using any kind of computer. In order to achieve that
universal access, the developers of the web and the browsers that are
used to view it, limited the basic set of fonts that would be supported
everywhere to two basic styles:
Serif: Times New Roman, Times, Georgia and generic
Sans-serif: Arial, Helvetica, Geneva, Verdana, and
If you use a font that is not supported, and
is not on the users computer, then the page will be displayed
using the browsers default font. This can really affect how your
page looks, so the best thing is to stick with the list of supported
fonts for all of your text.
But, you say, youve seen plenty of web
sites that use fancy fonts how do they get around this problem?
Its simple they create graphics using whatever fonts they
choose and place them on their pages like pictures. Thats why
you mostly see non-standard fonts used for things like headings, buttons,
captions on pictures, etc. The body of the text will almost always be
one of the standard fonts.
If you really like a particular font, couldnt
you just make the whole page a graphic? Sure, but there are a number
of downsides to that:
- Graphics take a lot more file space than
text and take can much longer to be displayed more information
- Graphic images have a fixed size they
dont expand or contract to fit in the browser window.
- The quality of the graphic text may not be
as crisp or clear as text that is displayed by the browser using a
- The large search engines, like Google and
Yahoo, cannot read text that is in a graphic image. As a result, they
may not show your site when users enter search terms that include
words that your site uses (see our section on promoting
your site for more information on search engines).
Serif or Sans-serif Which to Choose?
When it comes to picking between the standard
fonts, a general rule of thumb is to use serif styles for the body of
your text: it makes it easier for your eye to follow lines of text across
the page. It does look more formal, though, so you might want to use
a sans-serif font if the overall design of your site is casual or modern.
You might compensate by making the text a little larger.
Sans-serif fonts, with their clean, simple shape,
tend to be more legible than serif fonts when used for short blocks
of type. This means that they work well for headings and other places
where you want to get an idea across very quickly. They are also commonly
used for captions on buttons or navigation bars.