Imagine writing an excellent, informative document on your chosen topic. You put time and effort into researching it, and just as much on checking spelling and grammar. Yet when you hand it to someone, they cannot get past the first few lines without breaking into a sweat.
If this sounds like you, then you are probably having trouble formatting your document. A few simple changes can make a world of difference to the readability of a piece. Below, we give you ten tips for excellent document design.
- Use White Space
White space is the name given to any space around text and between elements on a page. It can be any color but is usually white, as it provides excellent contrast. Studies have shown that increasing the use of white space can also improve user comprehension.
There are a few ways to increase the white space in a document. Firstly, up the line spacing, so the gaps between lines are further apart. Secondly, add or extend the margins on your piece.
- Try the Golden Ratio
Many people like to get mathematical and use the golden ratio for this. Use an online calculator, adding your font and pixel width by height. You will provide the optimum line spacing information needed to make your text look evenly balanced.
- Increase Your Text Size
Even if you think the text is big enough, the chances are that it probably is not for many people. Ideally, any characters should be at least 16px high. All of this can change, however, depending upon other choices you have on the page.
- Consider Your Font
The font can have a significant impact on the readability of a document. It can also tell you a lot about the tone and style of writing before you even engage with the text.
When choosing a typeface, your main options are serif and sans serif. Serif fonts are always decorated with small lines, such as a flick at the head of the ‘h.’ Sans serif is without this embellishment, typically making it easier to read.
This is not a hard and fast rule, however. Georgia, for example, is a serif font that is very easy to read. Sans options could include Verdana, Helvetica, and Roboto, amongst others.
- Document Design Contrast
Contrast is the word used to describe differences in design. Using contrast well breaks up the page, allowing our eyes to process the information much more comfortable. The most useful contrast in design is black and white.
Consider your page. White backgrounds will be easier to read with black text and vice versa. Other contrasts include yellow backgrounds with blue writing, though this may be a little overpowering.
Try to avoid grey at all costs. It is too much middle ground for color and can be hard to read.
- Use Headings
Headings are a great tool to break up the text. They allow the reader to scan a document and arrive at the point they are looking for quickly. Ideally, any header should be worded to allow the reader to do this and provide the exact amount of information they need to navigate the page.
Ideally, a header will be bolder than the rest of the text and maybe a slightly bigger font. Avoid using underlines or italics for headings.
- Break Up Writing For Web Content
Look back through this article’s paragraphs, and you will notice that no paragraphs contain more than three sentences. That is a tactic used in web typography to break up text and make it easier for the reader to digest. Web content can often be amongst advertisements and videos all vying for the reader’s attention, and this is one way to keep hold of a reader.
Breaking paragraphs into three sentences makes them easily digestible. Though it may not be possible in more extended form essays, it is a tactic worth considering when writing blogs and articles destined for online reading.
- Use Bullet Points
Using the principle above, one way to break up writing in any context is to change it into a bullet point form. If you have items that can be ordered into a list, do it this way. It will operate the same way as a heading, allowing people to skim, read, and pick out the information they need.
- Use Images
A picture can indeed say a thousand words. Break up your text with relevant, informative design document images that back up the points made in your writing.
If you are wordily describing a process, consider making a ‘how-to’ diagram or flow chart. Most word processors now have easy access to stock photos and shapes that can be easily dragged and dropped.
- Bold, Italics, and Underline
Used incorrectly, any of these can make your document look messy and uneven. Done well, they can transform it. Think carefully about where you will apply them.
Bold should be for headers and subheadings. Italics should generally be used when emphasizing a single word. If you are writing about companies or organizations, it often helps to italicize their name the first time it appears in the documents.
Underlining should only be used at the title. It may also appear under any internal or external linking.
The Final Touches
Your document should now be readable and ready to go by implementing these quick and easy document design tips. Show it to a colleague or friend and ask them to rate the readability.
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