OVERVEIW
LEGIBILITY & READABILITY
LEADING, COLUMN WIDTH & TYPEFACE
WEB TYPOGRAPHY
CHARACTERISTICS OF TYPE
ON THE WEB
CONTENT, STRUCTURE & VISUAL RESULT
LEGIBILITY ON THE WEB
ALIGNMENT ON WEB PAGES
LINE LENGTH ON WEBSITES
TYPEFACES FOR THE WEB
Line length on websites

Text on the computer screen is hard to read not only because of the low resolution of computer screens but also because the layout of most Web pages violates a fundamental rule of book and magazine typography: the lines of text on most Web pages are far too long for easy reading.

Magazine and book columns are narrow for physiological reasons: at normal reading distances the eye's span of acute focus is only about three inches wide, so designers try to keep dense passages of text in columns not much wider than that comfortable eye span. Wider lines of text require readers to move their heads slightly or strain their eye muscles to track over the long lines of text. Readability suffers because on the long trip back to the left margin the reader may lose track of the next line.

You can use invisible tables (BORDER="0") to restrict the text line length to about fifty to seventy characters per line. The exact character count is difficult to predict because of the way different browser software and operating systems display type sizes. In conventional print layouts, columns of thirty to forty characters per line are considered ideal.

In the end, the decision to restrict line length is a philosophical one. From a design standpoint, a measure that is comfortable for reading is good practice. One of the fundamental principles of the Web, however, is that users should be able to structure their own view. Users with a large monitor may not want their text blocks circumscribed if it means that a large portion of their screen goes unused.

A low-vision user with fonts set large will not appreciate being forced to view long pages with short lines of text. So although leaving text free to fill the browser window may affect readability, following conventions may also affect the accessibility and legibility of your documents.
The optimal line length for your body text is considered to be 50-60 characters per line, including spaces. Other sources suggest that up to 75 characters is acceptable.
   
© Dave Wheatley
I take no responsibility for the accuracy, quality or safety of external sites.
 
   
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