What is Readability?

The Oxford Dictionary defines readability as ‘texts that are easy and enjoyable to read’. The level of readability in any text is determined by a quality (or readability) score. Grammarly – a well-known readability tool – provides users with insights into their text quality scores that range from 0 (illegible) to 100 (perfect).

 

Why is Readability Important?

When we communicate in person, non-verbal cues (body language), and opportunities to interject with questions, allow for clarification should it be required. When we communicate via the written word, the opportunity for interpretation or misinterpretation increases. It is even more important when communicating via the written word that the message you want to relay is being received.

 

How to Improve Readability

Is there a perfect formula for achieving consistently high-quality readability? Apparently so. According to recent research conducted by the Baymard Institute, optimal line lengths and character limits for digital texts are definable. Between 50 and 75 characters per line (including spaces) appears to offer the most benefits to readers. This included everything from form field labels to entire mobile experiences.

Image Reference: Baymard Institute

Furthermore, it was found that line lengths that were too short in characters, or too long, negatively impacted readability. When it comes to digital experiences, this has been found to make product descriptions difficult for people to read and understand. If your business is reliant upon online sales, these poorly written descriptions could be costing you precious conversions.

We know that long texts deter users from reading, and those that do persevere with it tend to get confused more easily with the overall message. Short texts encourage users to skip lines altogether. Although line length is not the only factor affecting this ‘sweet spot’ formula for users, it certainly seems to be one of the most critical.

Structuring your text also aids in readability. Clear headers, bullet points, line spacing, paragraph spacing, and imagery help to break up texts in ways that make the message you are portraying easier to understand.

 

Summary

Readability is critical when selling products or services online. Users need to be both willing and able to understand the message that you as a business are trying to communicate. Unfortunately, many businesses are repelling users with their low-quality readability. Readability – or quality – scores can be easily measured through a variety of market tools. These scores give businesses a reflection on a scale of 0 to 100 on how well or how poorly they are communicating using the written word.

But what can businesses do if they score poorly? How can they improve their scores? Is there a one-size-fits-all formula for success in readability?

Luckily, there is. Text length and text structure are two of the most critical factors that can be tweaked to ensure vastly improved readability scores. And because readability scores are linked to conversion rates, applying this in practice becomes a no-brainer.

Optimal line lengths are between 50 and 75 characters, including spacing. Lines that are too short or too long both deter readers for different reasons. And text structure helps to break down the text in more visual ways to ensure key messaging is communicated moe simply to the reader.

By applying these simple, yet well-defined changes to your product or service descriptions, you can take a big step in not only improving the readability and conversions of these pages but the experiences that your users are facing.