Practical Blogging Tips: Lighten Up

The more contrast your blog’s pages have, the easier they are to read, especially when you publish longer posts. Here are some quick suggestions, to supplement Check Your Typography.

  1. Switch to a lighter theme.
  2. Remove colored backgrounds. This could be as simple as tweaking some CSS code in your theme’s stylesheet.
  3. Increase the font size – small fonts make for dense text.
  4. Increase leading – that is, increase the space between lines of text.
  5. Don’t use liquid-width themes.
  6. Increase whitespace in general.

Decades of research for print media show two key characteristics of enjoyable reading experiences:

  1. Content that does not exceed 4-5 inches in width. The human eye simply cannot easily read wide pages without fatigue. Which is why I just don’t understand this love for liquid widths in some blog themes, just because someone has a 22-inch monitor. You might have a desire for ear-to-ear wraparound text, but your blog visitors probably will not.
  2. Suitable leading between lines of text. The larger the font size you use, the greater the leading needs to be. Not increasing leading means that you increase page density and reduce the ability of the eye to distinguish lines of text without strain.

Understand that if you’re young, you might not feel the eyestrain or fatigue right away. It can and will accumulate over time. I know whereof I speak.

14 thoughts on “Practical Blogging Tips: Lighten Up

  1. Yeah, I know I sound like a hypocrite, considering how Performancing is set up. But I have no control over Perf’s stylesheet.

  2. But…but… isn’t your width wider than 4-5 inches?
    You know it’s funny…whenever my husband uses my mail program he makes it full screen. I cannot read it when it’s that wide. Now I know why.

  3. Well “whitespace” used to mean “white space” on a printed page, but for online purposes, it just refers to areas of a web page that have no “ink”.

  4. >”maybe it’s the reason why so many people stop reading anything after graduating from high school or college.”

    Well, haha, in my case that must be why I often read secondhand books with yellowed pages

    Seriously, I was perhaps off-topic. As Markus says, I “should change [my] monitor settings”. The problem is clearly with the brightness of my screen and my light-sensitive eyes.

    That’s why I would feel more comfortable with a darker background (ex: the “dots dark” model on blogger) or a slightly tinged white (with a hint of beige for example).

    Now that’s funny, reading “more whitespace” made me instantly react. It seems that I have a problem with white!

  5. > “sidebar show up correctly”

    I was referring to my link

    > I’m sceptical about removing coloured backgrounds

    (5) If black on white is too strong for you then you should change your monitor settings Too much light can hurt the eyes. Or if contrast is pitched too high.

  6. Nicoob: Well, you’re proof that it’s not always true, but generally speaking, anything that reduces text and background contrast makes it harder to read. However, black on white being tiring isn’t necessarily due to black on white. That is, it could be due to other factors:

    (1) Too small a font
    (2) Poor leading
    (3) Bad font
    (4) Too dense/ not enough white space.

    I’ll be honest, besides you, I have never heard anyone ever say that black text on a white page is hard on the eyes. But if you are not in fact part of a minority, maybe it’s the reason why so many people stop reading anything after graduating from high school or college. (At least until the blogosphere appeared.)

  7. I agree with most of what you said, but I’m sceptical about removing coloured backgrounds.
    I find it quite tiring on the eyes to read black text on a white page, especially on a computer screen.
    A lot of coloured backgrounds may be in very bad taste, but a well-thought one can really be restful to the eyes.
    Thanks for the tips and the comments, which I found useful.

  8. Markus: Right, but we’ve had this argument before. Generally speaking, serif fonts are a better reading experience but not on screen. Now granted, Microsoft did their intensive study years ago, when computer screens were low- to medium-quality. Maybe things have changd.

    Not sure what you’re referring to, re “sidebar show up correctly”. I don’t have access to Perf’s stylesheet. I’ll have to leave changes to whomever gets picked to fix all that.

  9. And again: If using big font sizes pls. try a serif font. It adds to the point ‘Suitable leading between lines of text’.

    Hmm, not working here?

    OK, you might try this text desert for a look ant the effect of the light serif font Palatino (if available in your font directory). Text font is styled Palatino, Georgia, Times, Serif. Headings are sans-serif.

    The column width is a little wide with 760 pixel. Try to change the p font by editing the CSS (FF Add-On: web developer) on top of the CSS list.

    BTW: Does the sidebar show up correct in your browser? Pls. send PM about your browser if you experience problems.

  10. Bob: I’m glad you recognized it for yourself. I know for a fact that since I started blogging heavily in 2005, my eyesight has deteriorated somewhat. If you can catch it young, all the better.

  11. This is funny. Not yesterday, I increased my font size and went from a dark gray to black type. I removed my colored background 2 weeks ago. Why did I do this?

    I decided that, while the “pretty” design looked good in theory, I was having trouble reading the small gray font on a light blue background. I figured it was just me (I’m 35, which is ancient in the blogging world, I know) and that my eyesight was going. Turns out it wasn’t just me. I had some friendly and faithful readers let me know that it wasn’t working for them, either.

    Good form, Raj!

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