In the past centering content on a web page was very popular. Over the past couple of months I’ve noticed clients and non-clients centering their content – large chunks of content.
I wanted to write this blog post because in my former working life, before I became a freelance web developer, I worked in the Ophthalmology department at a major hospital here as a Lasik surgery coordinator. I worked closely with both the technician and the physician. I was also a Medicare Marketing Coordinator at another health organization where I reviewed documentation that was prepared for seniors.
Why is centering content bad?
Well, it makes it difficult for many readers who may have visual impairments, such as individuals who are legally blind, have some other limited visual deficiency, or even for people who are dyslexic, to read your blog.
The National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke defines dyslexia as: “a brain-based type of learning disability that specifically impairs a person’s ability to read. These individuals typically read at levels significantly lower than expected despite having normal intelligence. Although the disorder varies from person to person, common characteristics among people with dyslexia are difficulty with phonological processing (the manipulation of sounds), spelling, and/or rapid visual-verbal responding.”
If you have paragraphs of content that are centered, it forces your reader to have to strain their eyes to locate the next line. I know personally that can be a bit of a challenge in that I lose focus on the “meaning of the content at hand” because I am “looking” for where that line picks up. And sometimes I have to start over from the beginning so I can then focus on what the content is actually saying. At times I’ve gotten to the end of one line, found a line and it wasn’t really the continuation of the previous line…which meant I had to start over. This can be pretty frustrating.
Font sizes are important too
Another thing I want to note is font sizes. I get a lot of requests to increase the font sizes on many of the popular feminine child themes used with the Genesis Framework. Many theme developers are coding their themes with font sizes as large as 14px and as small as 10px.
In section 11:8 Use at Least 12-Point Font in the “Research-Based Web Design & Usability Guidelines” which is published by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ (HHS) they recommend a 12pt font size (16px) on all web pages. As they mention, “Research has shown that fonts smaller than 12 points elicit slower reading performance from users. For users over age 65, it may be better to use at least fourteen-point fonts. Never use less than nine-point font on a Web site.”
Font size and Typeface by Department of Health and Human Services
16 Pixels: For Body Copy. Anything Less Is A Costly Mistake By D Bnonn Tennant
Use Legible Font Sizes by Google Pagespeed Insights
Couple the centering and small font sizes can mean a bad reading experience for your visitors.
Now, I am not an expert and I cannot force my clients or others to follow this practice. I can merely suggest it to them and leave it up to them how they present their content. But if you want people to read and understand your content in the best way – presenting it in an easily readable format would be much better.