Readability and Accessability

If you’ve recently found yourself straining to read online content, you’re probably not alone. While this phenomenon may mean you need glasses, it’s more likely indicative of a larger trend in the world of user experience: a change in contrast and font type.

In the wide world of content marketing, most marketers value a few principles above all else, including quality, length, depth, and flow. However, there’s one more facet of web-based content that should be taking priority: readability.

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As the digital media world continues to focus on creating sleek, modern appearances, the look and feel of content is suffering. As content itself trends toward creativity and enhanced optimization, text is doing the opposite. Overall trends indicate that fonts are becoming thinner and lighter, making it hard for older readers and those with failing eyesight to read and process what web content has to say.

The Changing Face of Fonts

Historically, the main objective of font choice has been to foster an easily readable message. Yes, the variety in fonts available makes it possible for publishers to create a certain visual impression, but appearance and accessibility have long been the most important criteria in choosing a typeface. After all, what good is text if no one can read it?

This seemingly obvious conclusion seems to be falling by the wayside, however. Tech titans like Google, Apple, and Twitter are moving away from a traditional white-on-black look in favor of trendy sans serif fonts in pale colors on darker backgrounds. While attractive from a design perspective, this can make content nearly impossible to read, even for those with strong eyesight and plenty of practice squinting at a screen.

The Cardinal Rule of Contrast

Contrast is often a point of focus for web developers, as contrast ratio plays a strong role in the impact of a design. A typical black font on a white background, the highest level of contrast available, carries a ratio of 21:1. While this ratio isn’t necessary for consistently readable content, most technology companies support a contrast of at least 7:1 to ensure even those with visual impairments can easily read all available text.

However, many companies are now taking a “do as I say, not as I do” stance to this previously steadfast rule. Apple’s typography standards support a 7:1 ratio but are actually written with a 5.5:1 ratio. Google also supports a 7:1 contrast ratio, but also suggests a 54% display opacity that reduces contrast down to 4.5:1.

While this may not seem significant – after all, Apple and Google don’t host the whole web – these companies are seen as trend-setters in the industry, and millions of businesses around the world are eager to follow their example. This has lead to a global increase in unreadable fonts and color schemes, creating a major problem for millions of readers.

Keeping Content Readable

If you’ve been favoring fashion versus function, it may be time to take a second look at your web design. While slender fonts in light, stylish colors may look nice, this approach to style is likely alienating your audience and sending readers elsewhere.

Before following a designer’s advice, be sure to implement proper controls so that your content is accessible and readable, including verifying that contrast ratios meet suggested guidelines and performing a readability analysis prior to selecting a font. With an understanding of the problem at hand and a little due diligence, it’s possible to provide content that’s simple for readers to see, read, and appreciate.

Looking for more ways to enhance what your site has to offer? Get in touch with RivalMind today to learn more about winning digital marketing strategies.

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