Explained in 60 Seconds: Readability

October 07, 2014

Having a great looking website is good. Having a great looking website with content that scores high on readability is better.

When visitors come to your site, you want them to understand the message you’re communicating and the action you’d like them to take. That’s where readability comes in.

Not only is it a critical component in the overall user experience of your site, it’s also an important factor in your site’s overall success at meeting business goals. Here’s what you need to know.

Readability is using clear, concise language to ensure content comprehension. This includes:

  • Diction (word meaning, syllables)
  • Syntax (sentence construction, clauses, etc.)
  • Density
  • Clarity of meaning
  • Formatting/structure

So, why does it matter? Well, if you want your audience to take specific actions or learn specific things, they need to understand the content they are reading. This is particularly important for audiences with specific profiles such as:

  • International
  • Knows English as a second language
  • Young
  • Has poor reading skills
  • Has a reading disability

Reading and comprehending web content can be extra challenging for these groups. Readability is also a critical factor when it comes to content about complex topics like financial aid, scientific research, or healthcare coverage. When you use language that is not plain and concise, it can leave the reader confused and frustrated.

Remember, when it comes to websites, findability is great. Messaging is swell. But if the user can’t understand the content once they get there, you’ve still failed. Luckily, there are plenty of tools available to help you along the pathway toward great readability.

Score your readability at a glance:

Readability resources:

Related Reading

a red light in a dark room
Crisis Communication Proactive Planning

On March 23, 2020, we convened more than a dozen of our clients and friends in higher ed to discuss crisis communications in the wake of the novel coronavirus outbreak, which has significantly disr

an array of tools on top of white paper
Planning a Website Redesign: Free (and Cheap) Tools to Help You Get Started

When we work with colleges and universities to redesign their websites, one of the first things we do is a comprehensive discovery to assess the current state. 

People working with post it notes to make a content strategy template
Content Strategy Template: Draft a Content Strategy in Five Meetings

Content strategy is a transformative approach for focusing and elevating your digital communications efforts by aligning all of your content production to your key messages.

lane merge road signs
7 Ways Your College or University Blocks Effective Content Strategy (and How to Get Around Them)

Content strategy succeeds best not as an individual crusade, but as a group effort across your organization.