When you walk into a supermarket, there are lots of products on the shelves. You will walk along, reading the words on the tins or packets to find the ones you want. But imagine if the fonts were two thirds smaller than they are – you could hardly read them. Some people might squint and try, others might ask for help. And a good few people would just leave the product for one with bigger writing or even leave the store altogether. The same could be true of our websites if we are using the wrong font sizes.
Why downsize fonts?
The idea of smaller fonts seems to have come about when people started to include more information on their websites. There are lots to tell people so the temptation is to downsize the font and make sure it all fits. Added to that is the feeling that large font sizes can seem a bit overwhelming as if you are almost shouting at people.
But just because there is lots of small, compact content on a page, it doesn’t mean anyone will read it. Take this stat – users have time to read 28% of the content on the page at the most during the average visit. When the font size is small, this means they will likely read less because it is hard work.
The mobile factor
One of the things highlighting the problem with small fonts is the drive to put mobile first, something Google and other search engines are definitely doing. The smaller the font size, the harder it is to read on a smaller device. It has also highlighted that we are not making websites that have a unique experience for users on different devices.
Take the smaller than usual ‘h’ or ‘p’ tags that are 20px or below. These might seem more appealing on handheld devices but are harder to spot on larger devices. This shows the problem of trying to find font sizes that work across all devices universally.
And it isn’t just the size that is the problem – the whole typography business can be failing miserably. Font styles, kerning and weights all contribute to the appearance of the words on a webpage and need to work cohesively to give the best user experience. Therefore, understanding the basics and rules of typefaces is key to a great website.
Why make fonts bigger?
There is a good case for making fonts bigger in order to provide a better user experience and therefore more conversions from your site.
Legibility and readability
Because we have such a lot of content to read, most of us scan a page rather than reading every word to take in the main points. Smaller fonts make this harder to do and put people off from even trying – instead they click away elsewhere.
Older audiences are also to be considered. As their eyesight gets a little less reliable, they zoom in on things to read them. But if the content is too small, they are less likely to even bother. Even the younger generation with better eyesight don’t have the patience to study text to read it.
Visual weight is more apparent
Yes, bigger fonts can seem clunky in some situations, but this can be a good thing. A study from the Payame Noor University found that as the size of type gets bigger, readers can read faster. Larger typefaces have also been shown to stimulate some emotions more effectively, allowing the reader to connect with the content.
This means using larger fonts with more recognisable header and paragraph styles makes it easier for people to subconsciously classify the section and see what they want to read. Landing pages are an example of where this is extremely important – 3 seconds of reading clear, bold type can be the difference between taking the offer and moving away.
How to choose a font size
Of course, the question of choosing the right font size isn’t a straightforward one or there wouldn’t be much of a debate.
The key is to ensure that your website is responsive and that it offers a different user experience for the different devices.
There are also tools where you can check the type font scale and see how the different sizes would look on smaller devices.
If you are looking for inspiration, here are 5 websites that have great web typography sizes and give an idea of what to aim for with your own website:
Search engines are all about user experience and by ensuring that you have the right fonts in place and that they look great on all the different devices, you can tick this box and increase your chances of improving the time on your website & possibly bounce back rate. You can also increase conversions by offering users a great experience with easy to use content on your site.