Websites and blogs should care for text color

In an earlier post on ‘text display in blogs and websites’, we discussed size, font and formatting aspects of text. The present post is devoted to color aspect of text. Since text color and other text attributes impact each other, these should be considered together. We suggest that you browse that post too while reading this one, since many recommendations we made there relate to color too, and we’d not repeat them here.

Is text color that important for blogs and websites?

Text color [=colour] is a much neglected design element in blogs and websites. We ourselves have to downgrade many a blog while compiling the Indian blog directory, when we find the text unreadable due to weird color combinations.

major websites take great care in choosing text color
fig 1
When deciding the template and color theme for your blog or website [or any other web presence], you must keep the font color high in priority, especially if your website has (i) prominent text display and (ii) a lot of text to read.

The text color is also important for printing. Text in too light colors, too less contrast and that over images may not print well, especially in black-and-white prints.

Text in unusual colors and color-combinations may render poorly on some computer screens and mobile devices.

How much text coloration is optimum?

Text color is a function of overall blog color and appearance. In a fun blog with lots of color or a website for kids, text could be in funky colors while in a serious blog, we’d like to see text in only one or two muted colors.

In general, there should not be too much text color variation. Too much change in text color impairs readability and irritates the reader.

Coloration of text in the same type of elements should have same colors, e.g. all headings or sub-headings should be in the same color.

Choosing colors and their combinations 

Indians bored of social networking? Also of blogging??

ASSOCHAM has come out with a social media survey [link remove by Assocham later on]. One main inference of the survey, as given on their website, is that, “Youngsters have started finding social media boring, confusing, frustrating and time-consuming and they surf these sites less frequently.”

They claim to have interacted with 2,000 young people in the age group of 12 to 25 years in major Indian cities. Over half of the respondents said, they had “consciously reduced the time spent on social media websites…” A third had deactivated or deleted their accounts and profiles from these websites and “it is no longer a craze among them”.  Rest said, they had started maintaining a low profile on social networks. Three-fourths of respondents had “opened their profiles on almost each of these websites which was a fad among them when these websites were just launched. But… they barely use them anymore and prefer sticking to a singular site.”

About a fifth of the respondents hardly logged on to the social networking sites and preferred staying in touch with their folks via other means.

Let’s assume that ASSOCHAM’s data collection and analysis was flawless. But we beg to differ on the inference.

One. What the responses have shown only validates the findings of many international and localized surveys: that people keep experimenting with new platforms as they develop; that people tend to get bored of their experimentation with a particular web engagement; that new platforms get huge initial following. The Indian Top Blogs survey of blogging habits based on factual examination of blogs also proves that. What we found in the case of blogs relating to slowing interest over time will, sure, apply more to the social network sites because of many factors. 

Two. Take a boy of the age 15. He [or she] experiments with various platforms – the social networking sites, blogging, mobile chat and phone calls, web-chat, forums, and so on – to be in touch with his community and to expand it. As he cannot cope with all, his interest in many of these platforms goes down but he retains the ones that he finds the most interesting and useful. This has been happening for ages and will continue to happen. Does that mean that the youth are getting frustrated with social networking sites?

Three. Take the entire youth population. While a boy of 18 goes to college and his community habits undergo a huge shift, another one takes his place. The new boy is even more experimental than his predecessor. So, in this dynamic situation, new boys and girls carry the activities that have been partially left by their seniors. That’s why, with every passing year, the number of people embracing social media is only growing.

Four. New platforms for web and mobile based interaction keep getting evolved, some incremental and some revolutionary. At one time, Indian youth was a fan of Orkut, and suddenly it lapped up Facebook much more than Orkut. Twitter and Google+ came with different promises, so people [mostly youth] started experimenting with them. When a new platform comes tomorrow, people will throng to it. This flux will only grow as technology turnover gets faster.

Five. People use web for different purposes. The social media universe does not only include social networking sites, it also has Flickr and Picasaweb, Youtube, social bookmarkers such as StumbleUpon, Digg and Pinterest, and so on. There are also social networking sites such as Linkedin  and close forums that help in professional networking. In addition, there is this stable and serious platform of blogs. And they all are getting more and more integrated. So, if people shun some networking for experimentation sake, they would use new more of it for getting entertainment and information.

What ASSOCHAM’s study finds is just the obvious but makes a juicy, misleading, inference out of it. Just to be in the news?

Text display in blogs and websites matters a lot!

One of the many things that we observe during our detailed blog-reviews is poor display of text. We have come across many more such blogs - and websites - during Indian blogosphere surveys that we conduct for updating the Directory of Best Indian Blogs and blog-rankings. So this post specifically on display of text on websites and blogs.

When you start a blog or a website and when you tweak it, text display probably comes the last in your list of priorities. If you have a blog on Blogger or Wordpress platform, you might think that the default text scheme suits your blog and playing with it will only make it less appealing. After all, these big blogging platforms spend a lot of time and energy in creating the best in the industry. And when you think that your blog needs some change, you tend to choose from the numerous ready-made templates available on the web. When you engage a web-designer to make a website for you, you discuss background, layout, images, columns, logo, content positioning and so on but feel that the text suggested by the designer [often unmindfully and sometimes to impress you] is fine and no discussion is required on text aspects. Many superbly-crafted websites too suffer from this disregard for text – the building brick of a webpage.

Appeal and functionality should go together

Like all other elements of display, a website must have appealing text. Appeal does not mean too flowery a font or too much variation in size and color [colour]. What it means is that the text should look normal and pleasing. It should not put off the reader by its gaudiness and difficulty in reading. Real ‘beauty’ of text lies in not inviting attention but doing its job beautifully.

We always advise bloggers and web designers to care for the functionality of all site elements, and text is no exception. Functionality, like visual appeal, depends upon many factors. The two are also very closely related.

The quality of text display depends a lot on text color, but since we’d not be able to do justice with all aspects of text display in a single post, we’ve another post on the importance of color on blogs and websites.

Text characteristics

Font is one of the most important aspects to look at. Fonts with stylish curves, embellishments, quirky shapes, ligature, etc may look artistic but they are often less readable than simple fonts such as Arial. Too slanting a font too is not good for a website. There is another problem associated with unusual fonts: they do not render well. So, the text may not look the same as it looks on your computer and a particular browser. In some fonts, alphabets with similar shapes mix up [e.g. c and e; e and o; u and v; 3 and 8].

Text size is equally important. We have seen may websites that have good content but very small text. What purpose does the content serve if people find it difficult to read it? If your site has a lot of matter to read, do have text of 11-12 point, no less. If you need to use slanted, short or italicized text in big blocks, do raise the text size to make it properly readable.

You need to choose the size of the text of the title with care. In a few blogs that we reviewed in detail, we found an inconspicuous title, followed by bold description and huge post-headings. On the other hand, some blogs had stuffed so big text in the title that it hung down half the screen.

Text shape and size also impact navigation. Consider this especially in the case of sub-titles / post headings / widget titles. Maintain uniformity of text [and accompanying bullet] for similar elements.
right font helps readability of blogs and websites
Choose the right font.

Choose the hyper-linked text with care. The text should always make sense to the viewer and should also have direct relevance with the subject of the link. We have given below an incorrect and a correct way to place links:

incorrect: This website contains the best blogs on India and by Indians and you can reach there by clicking here.
correct: This website contains the best blogs on India and by Indians.

Some text should mandatorily have hyper-link. For example, the title text. People use it to navigate to the home page from other pages. Similarly, the post heading. Widget heads in many cases need to be hyper-linked. All external links such as web-pages in the main content and blog-roll should be hyper-linked. When you break a long post with ‘jump break’, do have an expression such as ‘Read more’ and it should expand the post when clicked [as in the case of this very post].

Do not write big chunks in italics, CAPS or slanting text. Unless it is your style, do capitalize the first letter of sentences and proper names [In the exceptional case, it needs to be uniform].

Text variation is important always and more so when your post turns big. It can be brought about by varying color, size, boldness, italicization etc.

Use a different color / bold text / italics for highlighting a point. Use quotes, line-break and italics to make direct speech distinct from narration.

Enhancing readability

10 deadly flaws in blog posts: blogger's sins!

This topic has been updated on two posts, starting with this one, in December 2015; kindly visit these: Blogging sins: deadly flaws in blogs

Posts are the life of a blog. More than anything else, the popularity and respect of a blog is decided by the quality of its posts. Yet, posts are one of the most ignored blog components. 

We give below the ten most deadly and yet quite common pitfalls of blogging. Our professional grooming on content apart, we came to see these content flaws during our detailed blog reviews and the three major blogosphere surveys that we have carried out so far. 

We'd call them bloggers' sins that take the blogs to the hell that poor blogging is.
[The following observations and advice primarily relate to general blogs and websites, and text-heavy posts; some of these may not relate fully to photo blogs, vblogs, very serious and very frivolous blogs.] 
  • 1. Improper title: abstract, highly witty or vulgar title 
 The hell-bound-blogger's vision: Let’s keep the post heading as non-sensical as possible. Let's make the journey difficult from the beginning. That's the way we win mind games.
  • 2. Poor post display
posts not set distinctly; too much text and many thumbnails stuffed in headers and footers
 The hell-bound-blogger's vision: It’s good to irritate and confuse the reader – that’s the best way to get attention.
  • 3. Poor readability
reversing text colour display [white text on black background]; keeping poor contrast between the background and the text: light text on light background or dark text on dark background; having a background image with varying contrast; too fast or too slow scrolling text; animated text; animations over text; too narrow reading column; unconventional experiments with font and text display; prose written with central or right alignment
 The hell-bound-blogger's vision: These are excellent ways to spoil readability. If you want good readability, buy a book, not sit before the computer screen. Reader, you must have the capacity to appreciate the hard work put in by me.
  • 4. Poor writing skills
abstract or self-indulgent opening sentences [and not going straight to the topic]; poor grammar; random experimentation with language; ‘I-don’t-care’ attitude towards language to hide language illiteracy; shifting persons and tenses
 The hell-bound-blogger's vision: My friends come to my blog because they like me, not because they like my language. Blogging is not for puritans, dude! 
  • 5. Poor editing
not checking proof mistakes and letting many punctuation, spelling and other errors pass  
 The hell-bound-blogger's vision: Why spend time on nitty-fritty? Big people go for thought, not proof correction. 
  • 6. Monotony; boring text
long-winded, sentences; long paragraphs; no text variation and highlighting, especially when a large number of things are discussed; very long posts [and refusing to break them into two or hiding a part of it by using ‘jump break’]; using obscure expressions and quotes; linguistic show-off
 The hell-bound-blogger's vision: People take you seriously only when you write superior-looking expressions. Breaking long text into paras and series don't matter; if the reader is serious, he would read the text whether it is in one big passage or in many small ones. 
  • 7. Detached writing [especially in personal blogs]
writing in third person, even converting oneself to he / she
 The hell-bound-blogger's vision: After all, the blog is a web diary; why should we bother for the reader?
  • 8. Not using visual content or quirky visualization
not using images; images without regard for design, picture quality, relevance etc; irrelevant video; absurd text colouring, text variations and image effects
 The hell-bound-blogger's vision: All stupidity is fun; it’s pleasure to let people laugh at our foolishnesses.  If you can't appreciate the underlying fun in absurdity, you are not worth being my reader.
  • 9. Poor bilingual support
jumping from English to one’s native script and expressions; not caring to give an English gist of something expressed in a different language
 The hell-bound-blogger's vision:Nothing gives more freshness than slangs and colloquialism.
  • 10. Digitally heavy content
putting very big photos one after the other; putting long video(s)
 The hell-bound-blogger's vision: Who has the time to work on visuals? Thay are just fillers.