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Justifying text on a website: good or bad practice?

AUDIO VERSION: Justifying text on a website: good or bad practice?
Doesn't justifying text sound like something that should automatically give your website elegance? After all, if even columns of text look good in a book or on a printed thesis, they must also work great online, right? Well, not always. While aligned text looks great on paper, things are a little different in the world of computers, smartphones and tablets. In our article, we will take a look at the issue of text alignment online. Forget the rigid rules of academic formatting for a moment - this is all about how we actually read and absorb content online. Does neat design go hand in hand with usability? Read on to dispel your doubts and help you understand what web text justification entails.
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Text justification - definition and application

Justification is a text formatting technique that involves aligning its lines to both margins - left and right. Such formatting makes each line of text the same length, providing the text with an orderly and formal appearance. Justification is especially valued in environments where the aesthetics of the text are as important as the content, such as books, magazines, newspapers, and formal documents.

Aligned text appears more formal and is usually preferred in materials that are to be printed or appear in PDF format. In the publishing industry, it is a technique that has been used for centuries to give publications elegance. Justification not only improves the aesthetics of blocks of text, but can also contribute to better space management on a sheet of paper, allowing maximum use of the available width.

Justified text in a magazine

However, when it comes to websites, things are quite different. Digital content design has different requirements and presents designers with a different set of challenges. While justification can be useful in some digital contexts, such as eBooks or PDFs, where the page format is predetermined and unchanging, the In web design, justification can do more harm than good.

Why you shouldn't justify the text on your website

Readability issues and impact on UX (user experience): While in books and print, justification can enhance the readability and aesthetics of text, the situation is quite different in the context of websites. Internet users often "scan" the content of a page for quick information, rather than reading it from cover to cover. Aligned text, due to uneven spacing between words, can make it difficult to absorb information quickly, cause eye fatigue and ultimately discourage the user from browsing further.

The problem of adaptation to different devices (responsiveness): In the age of responsive web design, where websites are viewed on a wide range of mobile devices with different screen sizes, text alignment can be problematic. Text that is justified on a wide computer screen can look completely different on a mobile screen, often leading to unnatural breaks and poor word distribution. This, in turn, can negatively affect the user experience, as the site requires constant scrolling and adjusting to make the content readable and understandable at all.

Note the following example - text after downsizing "spills", as the individual words do not fit within the designated line due to lack of space.

Scaling of aligned text

Impact on reading speed and reading comprehension: Justification not only affects the aesthetic aspect of the text, but can also make it more difficult to read and understand the content being conveyed. Studies show that text aligned to the left with an uneven right margin helps readers orient themselves in the text and contributes to faster reading. Spaces present in a just-right text can disrupt the natural rhythm of reading and make it more difficult to understand the text. In addition, dyslexic people also experience difficulties reading such texts. Irregular spaces between words can cause an additional challenge for people with reading disorders, as they introduce an element of visual disorganization that can interfere with text comprehension.

Technical problems: Justifying text on websites comes with additional technical challenges. Web browsers interpret justification differently, which can lead to inconsistencies in how a page displays on different devices and in different browsers. For developers and designers, this can mean spending additional time troubleshooting the appearance of text on different platforms, which is not always feasible or cost-effective.

SEO and text justification: It is also worth noting that the readability of text has an impact on search engine optimization (SEO). Pages that are user-friendly and easy to read are more likely to be visited, which translates into better SEO. Justification of text, which reduces readability, can adversely affect users' perception of the site, and thus its position in search results.

Best practices in formatting texts on the website

Alignment to the left edge: Left alignment is standard practice for web pages. It makes reading easier because each line starts in the same place, allowing the user's eyes to easily move from one line to the next. This naturally mimics the way people read in many languages and is dyslexia-friendly.

Text aligned to the left and text is justified

Increasing interlineation: The interline, or spacing between lines of text, has a significant impact on readability. Lines that are too tight can blend together, while lines that are too loose can be distracting. Optimal interlineation allows for easy tracking of text and can significantly improve readability.

Line length limitation: The optimal line length for online reading comfort is between 50 and 60 characters. Shorter lines make text easier to scan and increase reading speed.

Use of bold and highlighting: Using bold or italics to highlight key words or phrases can help convey a hierarchy of information and draw the user's attention to the most important elements of the content.

Use of bullets and numbering: Bulleted and numbered lists contribute to better organizing content, making it easier for users to quickly understand the structure and find the information they are interested in.

Use of proper spacing between paragraphs: Adequate spacing between paragraphs can significantly improve the clarity of text, allowing the eyes to rest for a while and visually separate different thoughts or sections.

Choosing the right font: Choose fonts designed for best readability on devices. 

Summary: Is justifying text on a website a good idea?

As you may already know after reading this short article, Justifying text on a website may seem aesthetically appealing, but it is not the best choice from the point of view of a website visitor. When you take on designing a website, it's worth keeping in mind that what works on paper won't necessarily apply on a laptop or smartphone screen.

Unnatural breaks in aligned text

Remember that when someone browses the Internet, they mostly want to find what they're looking for quickly and without unnecessary complications. That's why blocks of text stacked across the width of a page can make life a bit difficult - instead of helping to absorb content, they can make scanning a page with your eyes less intuitive. In addition, websites are displayed on a variety of devices with different screen resolutions, which can cause text alignment to generate unpredictable and often undesirable results.

Remember that the user experience is the most important thing. The text on the website should be accessible, easy to read and scan. Therefore, it is often preferred practice to align the text to the left, which promotes rapid absorption of information.

When making design decisions, always consider what best serves your audience. A user-friendly approach to web design will not only improve their experience, but can translate into increased engagement, lowered rejection rates and, ultimately, increased profits. That's why it's important to pay attention to what really works online, instead of clinging to old rules and looks that came to us straight from the days when texts landed mostly on paper.

Thinking about your own website? The key is to choose an agency that not only designs with a sense of aesthetics, but also with a deep understanding of the expectations of those who will use it - your future visitors.

Go ahead and use the free consultation, during which we will look at your needs together and see how we can best support your online debut.

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