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Long before Web was dreamt of, we knew maximum line length for easy reading was 65 characters. Violate this rule as you please, but existence of Web does not change it.
Grab a couple of novels off your book shelf and start counting characters. If you find a line with more than 65 characters, it's got a lot of narrow ones in it. Publishers are keenly aware of this rule. Many webmasters either are not, or choose to ignore it. Either way, say bye-bye to those visitors who expect and demand a fast, easy read.
If Line Length Didn't Run Them Off, Try New Times Roman!
Look, this isn't a debatable point. That New Time Roman, or a close cousin, is favored font in print world, means nothing on a computer monitor. Not one darned thing. In print, it's those serifs that make Times Roman so easy to read; they accent character for quicker identification.
But those same serifs slow reading on a monitor by over 20%. Why? Simple. It's a matter of pixels.
If you display 80 characters in Courier on one line in a 600 pixel window, this means you have roughly 7 pixels in width for each character. Draw an array of dots to represent pixels 7 wide and 9 tall. Maybe duplicate pattern several times with an editor, then print it. Now try drawing some characters.
It won't take long to discover that there aren't many dots that can be used to draw lines at an angle. That's why italic is so faint and hard to read on a monitor.
If that's not a sufficient challenge, try drawing some circles by connecting dots. The kind of circles used to create serifs in Times Roman. Little tiny circles. You'll make a mess of it, I guarantee, just as your monitor does.
The Better Choices
Since reading is about 25% slower on a monitor compared to printed material, you need to make a special effort to produce copy quick and easy to read. Holding line lengths under 65 characters helps.
Use Arial or Verdana. The latter is best for there is more space between characters, which helps avoid big black globbiness of large blocks of text.
Forget screen sized logos and company slogans. Answer that question: What's in it for me? And at all cost make it easy to read your page and copy. Provided you do want sales, that is.
Forget animation, flash, and such. It only interrupts reader. Picture that all important line at bottom of your presentation: Click To Order. Then a half inch below it, a multi-colored whirling gizmo.
Will reader's attention remain focused on link and action you want taken? Or will attention be distracted by whirling gizmo? If it is, will it ever return to your link? Maybe, but I won't bet on it.
Bob McElwain Want to build a winning site? Improve one you already have? Fix one that's busted? Get ANSWERS. Subscribe to "STAT News" now! mailto:firstname.lastname@example.org Web marketing and consulting since 1993 Site: Phone: 209-742-6349