I just read an interesting article from Smashing Magazine: “16 Pixels – For Body Copy, Anything Less Is a Costly Mistake"
For an article about readability, it is actually kind of long, but it does make its point. In brief, almost all of the copy you see on web sites is set at 12 pixels or less – and much of one’s potential audience has a really hard time reading it. The author argues that the resulting lost readership equates to lost sales.
As someone whose 30’s are receding farther and farther into the rear-view mirror of life, I have to agree. I’ve squinted my way through many a web site, and given up on plenty more, because they were just too hard to read. If the purpose of a site is to be READ, then you really want to be sure your audience can actually see the words.
Having said that, there are plenty of variables. Who is your audience? Why are they visiting your site? Are you trying to sell, inform, entertain, or some mix? In this era of push-button “design,” there is a tremendous need for talented professionals to choose the right type styles for their objectives.
Below, I’ve listed a few links. I won’t include any screen shots in this post, because every monitor is different. And obviously, the type sizes are going to vary based on your browser, your settings, and probably the weather outside. However, they do provide an interesting cross section of typographical approaches (my comments are based on viewing in the current Chrome browser):
nytimes.com – To my eyes, on my LCD monitors, this is perfect. It’s supposed to be a newspaper and then some, and it succeeds.
cnet.com – High-tech reviews and news – recently redesigned in a style that is both modern and easy to read. In fact, it may be swinging too far in the other direction. This is some big type.
crutchfield.com – Here’s a site selling expensive AV and computer equipment. It would be helpful to be able to read up on the items before spending a couple of thousand dollars, but that’s not an option for this old man.
sportsillustrated.cnn.com – The content on this site borders on the obnoxiously small, but it’s not as bad as…
mashable.com – I appreciate the content but I have to read with my face pressed against the screen.
beaches.com – You have got to be kidding me. The type isn’t just microscopic, I think it may also be gray. Before I get a headache, I’ll stop with this one.
As you surf the web, ask yourself which sites are easy and inviting for you to read? Which ones are designed appropriately for their audiences – and which ones are driving them away?