Last updated Feb 26 2020

Website readability: a definition

What is website readability?

Website readability is a measure of how easy it is for visitors to read and understand text on a web page. Readability depends on a text’s presentation (e.g., font choice, spacing, colors, etc.) and context (i.e., the actual words and sentences that are written on the page).

A highly readable website is more likely to convert visitors than a website with poor readability. With this in mind, online businesses should strive to create easy-to-read and easy-to-digest website copy that inspires their target audiences to act.

Why is website readability important?

Website readability is important because most website visitors are strapped for time and have limited mental resources to put toward learning about your company, products, and services. Your visitors want to be able to find the information they’re looking for on your website as quickly as possible.

To grab your website visitors’ attention and prove to them that you have a solution to their problems, you’ve got to connect with them, fast.

Highly readable content does just that.

How to test your website’s readability

Whether you’re writing a blog post, a landing page, or a pricing page, your website should be easy to navigate, and the text should be easy to read and understand. Here are a few tips to test the readability of your website.

1) Use an online editing tool like the Hemingway Editor, which judges the reading level of your text based on grade level, and gives you tips on how to improve readability.

hemingway
Here's what happened when we used Hemingway on a paragraph from this page

2) Try running your text through a readability tool like Readable from WebFX, which scans your web page and gives you a readability score based on popular readability tests like the Flesch-Kincaid and Gunning Fog.

How to make your content more readable

Make your content easy to see and scan

When it comes to presenting your content, there are a few basic steps to take to make sure it can be read correctly. Most of these tips are related to user experience (UX) web design:

  1. Use large fonts: a 2016 eye-tracking study found fonts 18px or higher to be optimal for online readers
  2. Choose an adequate line-height, at least 1.5 times the font size
  3. Use appropriate color contrast to make all text visible on the page
  4. Write scannable content: pay attention to sentence length and line length, and use headers and bullet points wherever possible to facilitate at-a-glance understanding

Make your content easy to understand

For content that is not only easy to read and scan, but also easy to understand, here are two additional tips:

  1. Use simple language: write in short sentences, and use clear words and concepts to help your visitors navigate even the most complicated of products
  2. Use language your customers use: you may have your own ways of describing your products’ features and benefits, but your customers might use different terminology. Write in the language your website visitors’ use so they don’t struggle to understand your web content.

How to speak your customers’ language

To learn how your customers talk and find out which problems they’re trying to solve with your product, you need to hear directly from them. Here are three ways to hear directly from your customers so you can improve the readability level of your website content:

1) Set up an on-site survey: ask direct, open-ended questions about what your customers want from your website, your company, and the products or services you offer. When you read through the open-ended data, you’ll get a sense of the words your customers use to describe their needs and drives, and you can then mirror that language in your website copy. Ask questions like:

  • What is the main reason you visited our site today?
  • How did you hear about our company?
  • How can we help you find what you’re looking for?
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2) Run customer interviews: set aside time to have unscripted conversations with some of your ideal customers, and ask them about the very first time they decided to search for a solution to a problem that your products were created to solve. Let them speak freely while you take notes, or record the conversation to be transcribed later—the words your customer uses are the words that will convince other people just like them to buy from you.

3) Read customer reviews: Joanna Wiebe of Copyhackers calls this technique ‘review mining’. When you want to know what your customers are saying about products or services like yours, study reviews on Amazon, YELP, G2, Trustradius, Capterra, and other sources. Note the language people use, and use it on your website.

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