Website Readability: The Optimal Line Length

POSTED May 10, 2022 IN:

Having the right amount of characters on each line is key to the readability of your text. Testing reveals that long lines of text are typically perceived by users as intimidating and overwhelming. As result, users faced with overly long lines of text are more likely to avoid reading the text.

General Principles Regarding Text Line Lengths and Readability

Having the right amount of characters on each line is key to the readability of your text.

Indeed, it shouldn’t merely be your design that dictates the width of your text — the ability of users to easily read through the text should also be a critical factor.

Some fundamental exploration of line length and readability was conducted by Emil Ruder, a mid-twentieth century Swiss graphic designer.

Ruder concluded that the optimal line length for body text is 50–60 characters per line, including spaces (“Typographie”, E. Ruder).

How Overly Long Lines of Text Negatively Impact E-Commerce Users

While images, videos, gifs, and other content play an important role in e-commerce users’ ability to evaluate products and services, for many users text is the critical factor in their decision-making process.

Of course, the importance of a site’s text depends greatly on the product or service being considered: users considering dresses in apparel e-commerce are much more likely to be swayed by the visual representation of the product compared to users considering a new grill or digital subscription service, where the product and service features and benefits are typically communicated largely through text.

The Optimal Text Line Length for E-Commerce Sites & Accessibility Concerns

Given the issues caused by overly lengthy lines of text, what’s the ideal line length to support readability?

The Web Accessibility Initiative (WCAG) guideline 1.4.8 states that, in order to be accessible to all users, lines of text should be 80 or fewer characters (or 40 or fewer characters if the text is Chinese, Japanese, or Korean).

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