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The following article by David Bancroft, president of FOCUS Associates, cannot be reproduced or used in any part without the expressed permission of the author.
Scroll or Squint!  What is Best?
By David Bancroft -- April 30, 1998

Here I am sitting approximately two feet from my 15" state of the art monitor, using the medium font size of my browser at 800 x 600 resolution and find myself leaning forward to read many of the commercial web sites that I visit in my travels of the Internet.

Is it just me with 40 plus year old eyes who find many commercial sites on the Internet hard to read because of the font size being used?   (I won't even discuss those sites that offer contrasting background and font colors that make your eyes water at first glance.)

Oh!  I know the purpose of using 10pt or smaller font size . . . Reduce the number of vertical scrolls!


David Bancroft, president of F0CUS Associates (business and marketing consulting)

I sure do not want to scroll down one or two extra times to read something without squinting from the strain of trying to read one or more paragraphs.   Forget that it may concern the purpose/mission of a site, description of a product or service, or any other pertinent information that is meant for the target audience.

Okay!  Some experts will tell me to change to a larger browser font size so I can read the copy easier.  Sure, I am really going to play musical font size depending on which site I visit next . . . NOT!  How many of us really do it anyway?

An effective presentation includes having the written word in a font and size that is easy for all individuals to read at a relative comfort level.   It should be more important to allow visitors an easy read than squeezing information into a given space to eliminate the need to scroll.

Here is a novel idea that minimizes scroll . . .

Develop the copy using 12pt or even 14pt and present the information on the page where there is transition that leads to a new page for continuation.   Scrolling may not even be an issue or it can be limited to as little as one.   (I personally think interested visitors will scroll to learn more about what is being presented.  I did say, "interested".)

More importantly, older Internet users like me, who still represent a significant part of the target audience, will not have to lean forward and squint.  It also means not leaving a site early, because of blurred vision.

Now read the following lines from two feet away...

  • Content is king! (Arial 14 point)
  • Life is Great! (Arial 12 point)
  • One More Chance! (Arial 10 point)
  • I Need Bifocals! (Arial 8 point)
  • I have no problems reading this sentence because my eyes are now six inches from the screen.

I expect you can read the 8 point font sizes.  Even I can read it in Arial.  However, try reading multiple lines followed by more paragraphs and other pages.  And what if it is Times New Roman or another font type that has tighter character spacing with slightly smaller sizing.  I get a headache just thinking about it.

Here is what the last line above looks like in Times New Roman 8 point regular.

I have no problems reading this sentence because my eyes are now six inches from the screen.

Remember I am strictly discussing copy that offers valuable information that is intended for the target audience.  Additionally, sites that are rich in word with many pages really should rethink font size.  It could help enhance visitor interest and even lead to a better ROI.

Finally, a site still must be well designed with a smartly written message that grabs the target audience to maximize results.  It just helps if they do not have to squint to read it!

Copyright 1998
All Rights Reserved
David G. Bancroft

Published in InternetDay.com eZine on May 7 & 8, 1998.

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