Website font size: size does matter

We don’t often get into the nitty gritty of design in this blog. Website font size, however, is significant enough to warrant a special mention.

We’ve been designing websites for about 20 years. In that time, we’ve seen a welcome trend of website font size increasing over that period.

Back before 2000, when many of us were on 13-inch or 15-inch monitors, screen resolutions tended to be smaller. According to w3schools.com (an important site with a user base of web developers), 71% of their users, prior to 2000, were on screens that had a resolution lower than 1024 x 768.

Today, only 4.4% of W3 users have screen sizes with such low resolution. 95% of users use screens that have screen resolutions of 1920 x 1080 or higher. For better or worse, web designers tend to design sites based on their screen resolutions. With that said, the general public has been catching up in terms of larger screen sizes.

Throughout the typewriter era, most designers agreed that 12pt size was an optimal body text font size for printed words. Despite this, paper quantity costs compelled most books, newspaper and magazine typesetters to set their body text font size smaller than 12pt (equivalent to 12px on a Mac).

Throughout the late 1900s and early 2000s, most website designers set their body text font sizes between 9-14px. In the new era of responsive design (e.g. where websites respond to different screen resolutions, especially on phones and tablets), most designers now set their body text font size to 16px as a minimum.

There’s a constant compulsion for many website designers to keep their body text font size below this amount. Why is that? One reason is that many people still think users won’t scroll.

Users scroll. There is no way you’d be reading these words if you didn’t scroll.

Scrolling is so commonplace today (especially with the advent of mobile devices) that it’s become an ingrained behaviour. Even when the content of the page does not exceed the viewport (the immediately viewable area without scrolling), users tend to scroll to see if there’s more content below the area they see.

It’s likely time to increase your website font size

And with an increase in body text font size, comes a need to also increase the size of your header typography (H1, H2, H3 and H4) to suit your larger body text font size.

There are many good reasons to design with bigger body text. Christian Miller, in his excellent and well-detailed essay arguing for larger text sizing, highlighted several significant benefits of designing in larger type, which I’ll summarise:

  • Larger website font size works better from a distance – With the advent of smart TVs and HD displays, the user could be anywhere between 3 and 16 ft away from the screen.
  • Larger website font size improves readability – “A larger typeface has been proven to enhance readability for all types of users, regardless of one’s age or quality of eyesight”.
  • Larger website font size improves usability – it can “minimise clutter, reduce extraneous cognitive load, and result in improved usability.”
  • Larger website font size increases visual impact – “Larger font sizes on headlines can elicit a much stronger emotional connection, and the same applies to body text. Words can appear more prominent. Messages become louder, confident, and have more conviction.”

We’ve set our body text font size to 19px with a line height of 1.76 and a default letter spacing. Our headers are consequently larger, as follows:

Header StyleHeader Text Font Size

Header 1

40px

Header 2

35px

Header 3

30px

We’re not getting any younger

One very important reason for increasing website font size is presbyopia. As every ophthalmologist knows, everyone starts to feel the effects of presbyopia around their mid-forties. Reading glasses become necessary and they’re not always around when you need them. I’ve got it now, so I can clearly (and sometimes blurrily) empathise with many of our readers over 40.

Over the last couple of years, I’ve also found reading my business cards to be a challenge, which is one reason we increased the font size for them as well, as you can see in the comparison below.

LiveseySolar Business Cards

The battered old card at the top was perfectly legible in my 30s. The black card below it reflects our interest in making our cards more readable. The difference is clear.

Let us know if you’ve noticed this trend towards increasing text sizes. Have you taken action and increased your website’s text size? Join in the conversation by leaving a brief comment below.

2018-01-24T17:02:37+00:00By |Categories: Step 1: Getting more leads|Comments Off on Website font size: size does matter

About the Author:

Rod Solar is the Director of Practice Development Consulting of LiveseySolar, a healthcare marketing and sales training company. Rod has created successful and engaging training systems for over 25 years. His advice routinely generates 6-figure incremental increases in income for his clients by teaching them how to systematically improve customer service while increasing sales at the same time. His training offers an elegant (and fun) step-by-step conversational approach which benefits surgeons, practice managers, hospital staff, and non-medical staff working in private healthcare settings. Rod wrote and delivered the Business Development, Clinical Governance and Medicolegal Issues module for the University of Ulster’s Postgraduate Diploma in Cataract and Refractive Surgery (Theory) - PgDip. He is a regular presenter at the European Society of Cataract and Refractive Surgeon’s Congress Practice Development Programme and has regularly published articles about healthcare marketing in The Ophthalmologist, Optician, European Ophthalmology News, Cataract & Refractive Surgery Today, Eurotimes and Independent Practitioner Today. Rod has been a professional salesperson (B2B and B2C), management consultant, college lecturer, an industry leader, and executive coach. His clients include Optegra, EuroEyes, ZEISS, Moorfields Private, London Vision Clinic, Thiele, and many other high-quality, private Ophthalmology clinics from the UK, Europe, USA, Canada, and the Middle East. Rod has a degree in Psychology and Human Performance from UBC. He lives in London, UK and you can follow him on Twitter: @rodsolar.