Profit-Building Text in Website Design - More Than Words

By Gregory Smyth

While much effort and research has been put into both general website design, and the content of your pages, relatively little has been published about the effect of typeface on your profit prospects. Yet typeface design is one of the most powerful characteristics of your site, with the power to drive readers away before they've read a single word, or to create a user-friendly experience that allows the value of your offer to shine through. We look at going beyond the content of your type, for search engine optimization, to the design of your type, for profit optimization.

Size is the most important consideration in typeface design. Types smaller than 9pt are difficult to read even for your customers with 20/20 vision, and if your target market is under 12 or over 45, you will instantly negate any good work in your web marketing strategy by discouraging people from reading your site. 10 point or larger fonts are advisable, and where there are large or long blocks of text, 12 point is recommended. Internet consulting firms and online marketing agencies recognize some areas where smaller type is recommended, for example in captions, legal notices and copyright indications. Leaving these notices the same size as your textual type will create confusion and diffused focus for your reader.

Look at the width of your text across the screen in conjunction with your type size when planning your website design. As your typeface becomes smaller (for example, if you need to fit a lot of text onto a page without the need for scrolling), the columns that you set text in will also need to be thinner. We have trouble reading anything more than 60 characters to a column, and this is why newspapers often have such thin columns. Your internet consultancy or website designer will need to create fixed width columns, so that their size doesn't change automatically when someone opens your page in a wider-than usual browser window, though.

When it comes to font choice, many website design and development programs simply don't leave you much choice. You'll have access to Arial, Georgia, Times New Roman, Verdana and Trebuchet, and not very much else. This is because this is part of the list of web-safe fonts for Windows based operating systems. Users need to have a particular font installed on their machine to be able to read it on your website, which is why the list of web-safe fonts is relatively small. Researching the full list of web-safe fonts online is relatively easy, and you'll need to do different research for Mac-based or Windows-based website design.

Alignment is another significant issue that matters little to your SEO marketing strategy, but is immediately apparent to visitors trying to read your site. Centered text is very difficult to read, and while full-justified text looks neat from a distance, it can also be difficult to read. Left-aligned text with a ragged edge is often easiest to read - although design-wise, it can also be valuable to have the clean look of full justification. Web analytics consistently shows lower conversion rates with centered or even right aligned text.