Let’s start with a simple example of what a wall of text would look like. Below is an example of a wall of text on the left and a correctly formatted page on the right.
Walls of text are long paragraphs that aren’t written, edited, or formatted to be readable on the web. Mostly a mistake of formatting, like bricks packed closely together, the text forms an almost opaque wall.
Why Walls of Text Don’t Work
Anytime you have written content on a page, you need to avoid having the wall-of-text effect.
Therapy website visitors wish to find someone to help them heal. Descriptions of destinations that your therapy clients may want to reach could include descriptors like peace, freedom, thriving, expansion. Notice that none of them are “wall.”
The symbolism of walls of text aside, walls of text are a therapy website mistake because reading on the web isn’t at all like reading in print. First of all, people on the web, even when they are researching mental health solutions, are very impatient and distracted and therefore tend to skim page content.
The skim is for saving time. Visitors will skim the content and see where it is that they would like to have a deeper read or where it is they will find the information they are seeking. Some readers skim a whole page scrolling quickly by and then scroll back to the priority points that seemed the most interesting relative to everything skimmed.
Long paragraphs and wide columns of text do not serve the reading style of website visitors. Particularly the wide columns of text can mean the reader will feel they are getting lost from one line to the other.
7 Ways To Avoid Walls Of Text
- Narrow the column – there are all types of guidelines on how wide a column of text should be. Some designers say 80 characters wide, others say 12 words. I say, it depends. Depending on your font, font size, and page layout, a different slightly wider or narrower column may be needed. A good way to get a feel for comfortable column widths is to visit your favorite online media sources and see how wide the column is on their pages within context.
- Use headings – headings serve a lot of great purposes for your website content. They are great resting points for a website visitor’s eyes and can also summarize what a page of content is about. As a visitor skims down the page, they should be able to read just the headings and grasp the content covered in the page and where to find it. (Headings are also important places for SEO keywords).
- Use visuals. Adding photos or visualized data like graphs can help break up a wall of text. Additionally, visual content interspersed within your written content can add another quick form of communication. Visuals can be easily understood and in a way unlike any text can be.
- Use lists. Lists are a great way to make even complex information simple and quick to comprehend. Lists are a dream to someone who likes to skim because information is broken into logical pieces around or to support a particular theme within the content.
- Use shorter sentences and paragraphs. Gone are the days of paragraphs with 10 sentences in them. Or at least on the web. To have text that is less dense on the page, use paragraphs that are 2-3 sentences long
- Blockquote your quotes. Blockquotes are a style that is built in to most website text editors that allow you to add quote styling to a piece of text. This styling can disrupt the monotony of paragraph after paragraph.
- Allow space. Making sure that paragraphs and lines of text have enough space around them is vital to giving a website visitor some space to breathe.
Font Also Matters
Font and font styles will also effect how wall-like your text is on any given page of your website. Serif fonts, such as times new roman or georgia add more to the font and because of that, are supposed to be harder to read on screen. Using sans-serif fonts like the one you are reading now (Open Sans) is better to defeat the wall effect.
Bolding words, statements, or sentences, when used in moderation, can give the eye another place to rest and provide emphasis. But unlike bolded text, italicized text can be difficult to read and should be avoided.
Bigger font sizes can also help website visitors read your text. Most websites are using body text that is 16px or bigger these days so start there and adjust as needed for your websites typography and visual hierarchy needs.
Text Formatting Is Important To How Your Visitors Feel
Your website visitors arrive on your website in stress. The last thing you want to offer them is a tall, wide, wall full of text that is intimidating and frustrating to read.
This isn’t only about formatting your text according to the conventions of the web but also about keeping empathy in mind. What formatting will make my website visitor’s time on my website easy? How can I present the text in a way that doesn’t force them to struggle to find what they are looking for?
The meeting point between conventional text formatting for the web and what formatting you believe will hold text with your best fit clients in mind is where you actually want to be.
What do you think? Have you been making the mistake of presenting your written website copy as a wall of text? Or have you picked up on the text formatting styles of the modern web?