User interfaces designed with care should be able to guide the users and take them from one logical place on your application or website to the other. If an app cannot do that, the users will leave and never return. In short, the user interface should be so easy to use and ‘readable’ that it conveys the right information, enabling users to recognize and get that information effectively and maximize the user experience.
Readability is a major aspect of design usability. Readable text determines how users understand the content. Poor readability hampers the quality of the content. However, if done perfectly, readability offers great scope to absorb information in the text. After all, you want your users to process the content correctly.
Some Useful Tips to improve Readability
Use Visuals to Break up Text and Improve Comprehension
We are constantly bombarded with information, which results in information overload. As a result, we generally try to extract information with as little efforts as possible. This is why people prefer infographics and videos to long articles. Visuals allow your audience to extract information more quickly and with a lot less effort. For example, we use visual “break-outs” in our articles for readers to “rest their eyes” while scanning, as well as to communicate important points in a more visual and memorable way. Images, relevant examples, and statistics can be used effectively to break up your text—just make sure they don’t look like ads.
Logicality consists of a number of things such as dependencies, similarities, and differences. Dependencies usually mean that the contents from the lower levels belong to the contents from the upper levels. Similarities include the content on the same level and differences mean the content which does not belong to the same levels.
Once the logical relationships are established, creating a visual hierarchy gets easy. Building contrasts and organizing them to provide a decent visual hierarchy is the aim.
Minimize Line and Paragraph Length
Line length matters. While people can read faster with longer text lines, they actually prefer shorter lines of texts of 45 to 72 characters. Make sure your lines wrap at this point. Also, use shorter paragraphs. Avoid having “running” paragraphs longer than 6-8 lines. It’s easy for readers to lose their place with long paragraphs. Use paragraph breaks to create some spacing. Also, avoid long lists and use bulleted and numbered lists when possible.
Use contrast that matches the readable range. In the case of background, choose colors that are subtle in tone and duller than those of text. This will automatically attract user’s attention on the text and will not divert him to the background.
Just like line-height, letter-spacing also influences readability in web typography. Letter spacing, as is clear from the name, is the space present between each letter in words. In print designs, negative letter spacing is a common practice to experiment more with the layout, but should never be incorporated in body text. For any text, legibility stands no chance without letter spacing.
Line length is often left behind in web typography but should not be ignored. Line length stands for the number of words present in each line. A perfect line length permits the reader’s eyes to shift from the end of one line to the beginning of the next very smoothly and instinctively.
Use CAPITAL LETTERS Sensibly
People don’t read one letter at a time. Our eyes usually read groups of letters at a time that make up words. What the evidence shows is that when we scan these “blocks of letters”, reading ALL CAPS is far less fluid. Because we don’t see them as often, words in caps take us longer to recognize. Capital letters aren’t necessarily harder to read, but we do read them more slowly. This is why I don’t advise using capital letters for anything longer than a tagline or a heading. Wiring in all capital letters can also be interpreted as shouting. They should ideally be reserved for text to which you want to draw attention, such as headlines, or an important note.
Best Practices for Designing an Interface
Everything stems from knowing your users, including understanding their goals, skills, preferences, and tendencies. Once you know about your user, make sure to consider the following when designing your interface:
- Keep the interface simple. The best interfaces are almost invisible to the user. They avoid unnecessary elements and are clear in the language they use on labels and in messaging.
- Create consistency and use common UI elements. By using common elements in your UI, users feel more comfortable and are able to get things done more quickly. It is also important to create patterns in language, layout and design throughout the site to help facilitate efficiency. Once a user learns how to do something, they should be able to transfer that skill to other parts of the site.
- Be purposeful in page layout. Consider the spatial relationships between items on the page and structure the page based on importance. Careful placement of items can help draw attention to the most important pieces of information and can aid scanning and readability.
- Strategically use color and texture. You can direct attention toward or redirect attention away from items using color, light, contrast, and texture to your advantage.
- Use typography to create hierarchy and clarity. Carefully consider how you use typeface. Different sizes, fonts, and arrangement of the text to help increase scalability, legibility and readability.
- Make sure that the system communicates what’s happening. Always inform your users of location, actions, changes in state, or errors. The use of various UI elements to communicate status and, if necessary, next steps can reduce frustration for your user.
- Think about the defaults. By carefully thinking about and anticipating the goals people bring to your site, you can create defaults that reduce the burden on the user. This becomes particularly important when it comes to form design where you might have an opportunity to have some fields pre-chosen or filled out.
There are readers’ goals for every page. As a designer, you have to make sure that you are conducting a smooth communication process for the visitors of your website. Skimming is the order of the day and too much information can do more harm than good. Design for readability or else get ready to lose traffic on your site. Lay stress on brevity and clarity of the content. Don’t make the users think too much. A clean layout can be a scannable layout only if there is strong readability. Hope you will make good use of these tricks and make the users flow with the text.