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My site has long form content. I need to understand if having a large font size, though it helps in readability, may lead to perception that content is longer than it is thereby making less people read it (such as people constrained for time). End of the day the end goal is to get content read.

Currently site typography and font is as below:

  • Lucida Sans
  • Font Size : 22 px
  • Line Height : 33px
  • Line Width : 55-75 characters including spaces

The above details are in sync with what I found on Smashing Magazine in terms of guidelines.

PS:I now understand setting font size in px is not appropriate after reading other threads on the forum.Hence something to fix.

  • There's a lot of ways to address this, like, breaking up your content with images etc, or maybe reducing the font size on the items you don't need as much attention on. I try to keep my largest font sizes for the pithier elements that I really want eyeballs on. but it's really hard to say without seeing the content you're talking about - (opinion: I don't think 22px is too big in general, but like I said, without an example, it's hard to answer this) – binky Sep 15 '15 at 16:15
  • @binky a sample of the content from the site. WatStory – V_C Sep 15 '15 at 16:19
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    This is one of those questions that can only be answered by seeing the particular implementation. There's not going to be any generic research that can make this decision for you. – DA01 Sep 15 '15 at 16:28
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    Also, there's nothing wrong with setting fonts in px. It just all depends on what you're doing. – DA01 Sep 15 '15 at 16:28
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    Oh, and the final thought: the most important factor is the quality of your content. Is it good content? If so, that's going to have a much bigger impact than 18px type vs. 22px type. – DA01 Sep 15 '15 at 16:29
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If content is engaging, people will read it.

That should be enough. You can fine tune your content's copy as much as you want, but you'll need to communicate something, and depending on what you want to communicate, lengths of content blocks will vary.

Think about this: an e-commerce site will probably have short blocks of content, because they'll want you to focus on the CTA. On the other side, a news site could span articles through many many scrolls, even different pages

So, the first thing to know is how to deal with these content blocks, and once you define the layout and structure, think of typography.

Paul Olyslager has a very interesting article about this: The Optimal Text Layout is More Than Line Length . I'm borrowing part of his conclusions below:

The optimal text layout is difficult to define due to the relationship between its variables. For example, long line lengths are said to need more interlinear spacing to ensure that the eyes locate the next line down accurately when executing a return sweep towards the end of the line. (...)

There are, however, some guidelines to help you out:

  • 12 point size font as an absolute minimum,
  • don’t condense letter spacing,
  • when changing line length, change the leading accordingly,
  • Remember: optimal is not necessarily fastest reading line length but is the size preferred by the users,
  • think about the impact on line length and leading when changing font size,
  • keep the text layout clean and uncluttered and use enough white space.

Formulas everywhere

Whether you know it or not, design has countless scientific formulas, and typography is probably the aspect of design where formulas are more useful: they were needed since Guttenberg, they are needed in nowaday's most complex application. If you want to know the formulas for layouts and typography, take a read to Secret Symphony: The Ultimate Guide to Readable Web Typography, which deals with Golden Ratio concept and seamlessly apply to most designs (you can test it if in doubt).

If you're looking for research, I recommend the papers Effect of Character Spacing on Text Legibility, The Effect of Letter Spacing on Reading Speed in Central and Peripheral Vision and Eye movements, the perceptual span, and reading speed (some parts aren't specific to your issue, but useful as a whole)

In short

If you read the above cited documents and study the formulas and research on the subject, you'll quickly find different strategies to apply to your content in a consistent way. However, as in everything UX, you'll need to test and research your specific scenario

3

With this little hack to google analytics, you should be able to track scroll depth to see just how far down the page visitors were scrolling. this will help to break down the content of the page in to segments.

Also, Golden Ratio Typography Calculator will help you to get an idea about the font size to line-height ratio depending on the content width.

  • thank you the Google Analytics Code will turn out to be very useful – V_C Sep 16 '15 at 7:32
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This is more a question of design and typography than UX, strictly speaking, given that UX is not really about typography. What you're talking about is readability, as opposed to legibility.

Legibility depends on how easy it is to read a block of text. Legibility is affected by serifs, open counterspaces, large x-heights, line length, type size, font weight, leading, line length, type size, font density. Readability, is how much the reader wants to read. You can improve readability by breaking the text up into smaller chunks, using drop-caps to draw the eye, using white space effectively, using a pleasing grid.

Having a larger font size will probably not trick your readers into thinking that a large block of text is smaller than it is, but it may help them want to read it more. And the font size should depend on whether or not your readers are viewing this copy on a desktop computer or a mobile device.

In this case, I would not recommend using a sans-serif font for body copy, if there are blocks of unbroken text. For that, serif fonts are far easier to read. You can use a serif or sans-serif font for the headlines.

  • "UX is not really about typography". Maybe you should expand on such concept – Devin Sep 16 '15 at 19:40
  • Typography is graphic design. UX is human-computer interaction. It's not a concept and there's nothing to expand on. If you're not clear about something specifically, please explain your where you need more explanation or provide information to support your opinions so that I can provide a response that will help you in your understanding. – user70848 Sep 17 '15 at 14:24
  • So you say that I can do whatever I want with typography and it won't affect usability? I don't know, I know about THOUSANDS (literally) of articles dealing with typography and UX, I know of many fonts designed specifically for usability, thousands of UX specialists writing papers about this. Great products using typography without any graphic designer intervention. I won't ask you to expand since it seems it offends you, sorry about that. But you have to understand you're implying many people is wrong, so it's fair to ask for clarification. Anyways, no worries – Devin Sep 17 '15 at 16:13
  • I did not say that someone can do whatever they want with type and it will have no effect on the output. Can you point out where I said that? What did I try to get across is that the core skills and tenants of human-computer interaction do not include typography, as much as legibility and accessibility which affect overall usability of a system. UX is about testing and evaluating an interactive system. If it involves the design of a system, then it is about applying interaction models and best practices based on cognitive psychology for good effect. UX does not get into the minutiae of type. – user70848 Sep 17 '15 at 16:59

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