Today I came across this gem of an article about using larger font sizes in your website’s body copy. Judging by the amount & varied type of comments the article has gotten it’s a pretty controversial topic amongst designers.
To summarize Bonn’s argument, you should use larger sized text for your body copy as it promotes higher reading comprehension and is easier on the eyes for older readers.
Readers spend more time reading larger body copy (with, I might add, appropriate space in-between lines) and thus typically have a better understanding of the copy’s contents. Smaller font sizes for body copy, on the other hand, promote skimming and less reading comprehension with readers. (For an example, visit http://www.saminthecity.ca/ and try to read the “Welcome” section at the bottom. Most likely, your eyes will see “Downtown Toronto Homes for Sale” and “Explore…Downtown Toronto” easily but you’ll have a hard time concentrating on the copy for each of those sections.)
Larger sized text for body copy is also easier on the eyes of older readers and persons with vision impairment. For a 40 yr old person, only half the light gets through to the retina as it did at age 20. For a 60 yr old person, that number is only 20%. There’s no need to squint at large text and it can be read from a comfortable distance from the computer (which also reduces the strain on your eyes from the computer monitor).
Making the jump, however, to larger body copy isn’t an easy one. Think back to when you read your first “young adult” novel/short-story/etc… the text seemed so small compared to the children’s books you were used to! A similar thing will happen when you first start increasing your font size – you’ll think it’s too big! And maybe it will be, depending on whom is visiting your site.
Think about your typical client/web visitor. How old are they? Have you ever asked them what they thought of your site/what difficulties they’ve had using it? Chances are more than a couple visitors have felt the need to zoom in on your website to read it.
If your prime website demographic is over 40 (or close to it), you should probably consider increasing your body copy size to something larger than 11-12pt. Bronn’s article recommends 16pt, but a solid 14pt is just as good. It’s worth discussing with whomever designed your site – they’ll be able to suggest to you a good size to upgrade to.
- Megan Radich