Last updated Feb 26 2020

CRO glossary: website readability

What is website readability?

Website readability is a measure of how easy it is for visitors to read and understand online text. Readability depends on both a text’s presentation (e.g., the choice of fonts, spacing, colors, etc.) and its 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 one packed with complex jargon that is difficult to scan and read through. 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 they can put toward learning about your company, products, and services. 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 as quickly as possible.

Highly readable content does just that.

How to make your content more readable

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 fall under the heading of UX 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, e.g. 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: use headers and bulleted lists wherever possible to facilitate at-a-glance understanding

For content that is not only easy to see and scan, but also easy to understand, there are two points to follow:

Use simple language: even if you’ve got a complex product, you can still write many sections of your website in simple, straightforward language that won’t strain your readers. 

  1. Try running your text through a readability app like the Hemingway Editor, which tells you the reading level of your text and what you can do to simplify it.
Editor’s note: this is what happened when we used Hemingway on the previous paragraph and later edited it to improve readability:

2. Use the language your customers use: you may have ways of describing your products’ features and benefits that make sense to you and your teammates, but there’s a good chance your clients use different terminology. Writing in the language they use helps you make sure they won’t struggle to understand.

So… how do you know what words and phrases they use to talk about your products?

How to speak your customers’ language

To understand how your customers talk about your products and the problems they turn to you to solve, you need to hear directly from them. Three ways you can do that:

  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 they use to describe their needs and drives, and you can then mirror that language in the copy.
  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—these are the words that will convince people just like them to buy from you.
  3. Read customer reviews: Joanna Wiebe of Copyhackers calls the following 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 back on your website.

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