Improve Content Readability And Sex Appeal With Typography
Content typography dresses your information for success.
Skip the ho-hum grey suit content presentation.
Even your quality, must-have information will disappear into the Wall Street crowd dressed like that.
Potential readers don’t care how smart you are.
It’s not about the hours you lovingly poured into your content.
It’s about them!
Their limited attention span has a million other more pressing activities than reading your content.
To appreciate your content’s fate, know that its potential readers are image-driven. They’re wired to react to visuals.
As a result, would-be readers subconsciously seek glamorous red carpet content presentation dripping with sex appeal.
To make your content stand out and attract attention—not only for readers, but also influencers and the media—use content typography effectively.
Typography is the style and appearance of your text content. Without visually appealing, legible presentation, your content won’t get a flicker of your audience’s attention.
Remember, your content doesn’t get a second chance to make a first impression.
Make it count!
Typography is your secret power to hook potential readers and reel them in. After that your quality content must do the heavy lifting.
1. Why typography matters for content marketing and blogging
Typography ensures your message gets through.
Typography is the written word’s visual component. It’s s the fairy dust that makes your text legible and more readable.
Emil Ruder wrote in 1969 before the dawn of digital content:
“It is the typographer’s task to divide up and organize and interpret this mass of printed matter in such a way that the reader will have a good chance of finding what is of interest to him.”
- Legibility refers the level of difficulty readers have distinguishing one letter from another in your text.
- Readability relates to how comfortable readers find consuming words, phrases and blocks of text. Based on research, aim for an eighth grade reading level, often measured by Fleischman-Kinkaid tests.
Good typography overcomes our innate laziness when consuming information. Without it, your carefully crafted content will languish buried under more tantalizingly clad information.
Usability expert Jakob Nielsen put it best: “Text is a user interface.”
Your content marketing and blog posts must be legible or no one will read them. It’s the lowest content usability bar. Clear it or your content won’t get read.
Text presentation matters! It increases the power and impact of what you’ve written.
Consider the appearance of your content marketing and blog posts. Your text presentation telegraphs signals through word order, color, placement, spacing and capitalization.
To give your words the best possible chance of getting though, typefaces are worth your time to get right.
Here are 6 basic typography terms (Note: Some are included in our list of 21 blog design elements.)
- Typeface is the name of the text design used. (Examples: Times New Roman, Arial.)
- Font refers to both the specific typeface and selected size. (Example: 12 point Arial.
- Weight and Style are typeface variations. Bold and Italic are common variations.
- Letter spacing can be adjusted to change text density, the space between characters in a text (AKA: Tracking)
- Leading measures the distance between one line of text and the line directly above or below it.
2. Content typography: The power of fonts
The mathematical proportions of your typography are essential to how readers perceive your text presentation. Grounded in the principles of nature, this geometric ratio will prevent your lettering from being too squished or elongated.
Typography has 3 fundamental dimensions:
- Vertical font size
- Vertical line height
- Horizontal line width
Chris Pearson’s Golden Ratio of Typography is:
- For any font size, the line height must increase as the line width increases.
Need help? Use Pearson’s Golden Rule Typography Calculator.
Fonts improve truthiness
With Cornell Professor David Dunning, Errol Morris and the New York Times tested 6 different typefaces (both serif and sans serif) for believability. The fonts were Baskerville, Computer Modern, Georgia, Helvetica, Comic Sans and Trebuchet.
RESULTS: 1.5% of respondents trusted Baskerville over the others. As an uncontrolled test, Dunning, thought this outcome was significant.
While typeface doesn’t make something true, it contributes to your message’s ability to get through.
Font selection basics
While there are many fonts available including custom designed ones, they generally fall into 2 major categories: Serif and Sans Serif.
Examples of Serif and Sans Serif Fonts via Google Fonts
When selecting a font for digital use, consider the fact that not all systems support all fonts. Therefore specify backup fonts if your chosen ones don’t display on a given system or device.
Before you choose an easy-to-read typeface, check out Stout’s infographic:
For help deciding, check Google Fonts.
Skip out-of-the ordinary and difficult-to-read options. If you have to squint to read the text, don’t use it.
Ideally, select a large default font size to get and keep people reading. Larger fonts work for the 40+ set (aka: people with reading glasses.)
Just because your platform or app allows font change, doesn’t mean you should!
When selecting fonts, consider your branding. I learned this lesson at Bertelsmann. Each product line used a different set of fonts associated with the brand’s personality.
- How to develop your brand. (HINT: It’s more than a logo.)
Content font selection: Goldilocks Approach
Designer Dustin Stout recommends using 3 different fonts for blogs to improve content readability and keep readers on the page.
- One font for headlines
- One font for quotes
- One font for everything else
Stout’s approach differs from many top blogs that use only one or two fonts.
For example, Contently uses a sans serif font for its headlines and a serif font for the text. Like blogger Peg Fitzpatrick and Rebekah, Contently uses color to make its links standout in their blog post in a way that reinforces their branding.
One font causes your content dies of monotony. You’ve applied the design equivalent of brakes. It’s more difficult for readers to distinguish what’s important while skimming. Most visitors only read 28% of your words.
Too many fonts confuse and distract readers. There’s too much going on at once. They’ll leave quickly rather than figure out what’s important.
- Use enough fonts to guide your reader through your content quickly with having to think.
3. Content typography: Use your content space wisely
Just as space is comes with a premium price tag in New York City, so does your target audience’s attention span. (Yes—I get the irony of a Manhattanite talking about space.)
Don’t let the hard work you poured into your content or blog posts go unnoticed because you’ve crammed too much into too little space.
Like a good real estate agent, white space helps you stage your content. Your writing must stand on by itself.
Optimize your white space
- Reduce distractions. To your unfocused visitor, everything that’s not your content is a shiny object worthy of their attention. Remove them!
- Use optimal 50 to 75 characters per line recommended by Baymard Institute. Either too many or too few characters waste reader effort. Ample white margins force readers to focus on your text.
- Make key points stand out. Give them space to breathe. After editing your content, make sure you’ve grouped all of the similar content together. Ask yourself if the information can be ordered better visually to improve comprehension.
4. Content typography: Increase text contrast and color visibility
Text contrast is a key element of content typography, especially for color blind and low vision readers. It’s the difference between text color and background color and/or design.
Use this color contrast checker to help you.
Modify the text or background or add an overlay between text and background to increase contrast as Jakob Nielsen suggests.
Text color visibility matters. Some color combinations are easier for the average person to detect and recognize, improving text legibility.
Based on experiments, black text on a white or light yellow background yielded the best legibility.
Color combinations that reduced brightness contrast included blue text on white (good), yellow text on blue or red text on white (moderate) and yellow text on white (poor).
Contrast may be positive (light text on dark background) or negative (dark text on light background). This distinction gets your content consumed. People are twice as sensitive to negative contrast as positive contrast. This is why white on black is best for low vision people.
Make key text stand out from the rest of your content. Highlight or add light shading behind your text.
When incorporating color into your content text, also consider color associations.
The Content Typography Bottom Line:
Since we were small, we’ve been taught to use our words.
BUT content typography is key to getting people to pay attention to them, specifically when our words appear as a bunch of letters on a screen or page.
Typography gives your carefully arranged words the power to pull potential readers into your content and blog posts.
Use it to attract and guide your readers.
Content typography transforms the physical text into a mouth-watering content beauty that strut its stuff across the red carpet.
Then you won’t have to worry about micro-attention spans.
Your readers’ eyes will be laser-focused on your designer clothed words.
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