RE: Perfect Width for Your Online Content

Subject: RE: Perfect Width for Your Online Content
From: Ed <hamonwry12 -at- hotmail -dot- com>
To: "'David Neeley'" <dbneeley -at- gmail -dot- com>, <techwr-l -at- lists -dot- techwr-l -dot- com>
Date: Wed, 23 Mar 2011 04:33:10 -0400

I hate when I forget to hit "reply to all"... apparently I sent the
following just to Sandy last night:

I don't at all agree with the "perfect" content length URL presented. The
author presents researchers, but only one link at the end of his post, which
is only to a general site, and not to any research.

However, I also disagree that the "perfect width is user-controlled", as it
goes against current web design practices.

Many designers now use the 960gs grid system ( This
specifies a 960-pixel wide space for content.

Further, a 1920px wide screen (which I also have) would have a ridiculously
long word count for text. Even print design abides by a 45-75 character per
line length (,
which was suggested by Robert Bringhurst's "Elements of Typographic Style"

HTML is not a formatting language, but CSS is. There are is a new use of
technology called Responsive Web Design
(, which uses CSS
media queries, and aims to adapt content and line length for each kind of
device, so you won't be reading 640x480 content on your 1920x1080 screen.


-----Original Message-----
From: techwr-l-bounces+hamonwry12=hotmail -dot- com -at- lists -dot- techwr-l -dot- com
[mailto:techwr-l-bounces+hamonwry12=hotmail -dot- com -at- lists -dot- techwr-l -dot- com] On
Behalf Of David Neeley
Sent: Wednesday, March 23, 2011 4:11 AM
To: techwr-l -at- lists -dot- techwr-l -dot- com
Subject: Re: Perfect Width for Your Online Content


While I'm in general agreement that text width should ideally be able to
be reset by the user, I disagree that it is particularly useful for the
"text should flow to fill" a very wide screen width at high resolution.

That is because there is indeed a limit to the ability of the eye to
track a line of text easily and comfortably without getting lost and
moving to another line, or having to strive to refocus on the original
place where you were reading.

This varies with the font, the point size, and the leading between lines
of text and is not a hard and fast rule for every given reader in terms
of what is "ideal."

It remains true, though, that as the line width increases the line
leading and font size should also increase. I always pay attention to
the readability of a given font; some are easier to read than others at
any given point size. As a general proposition, I tend to prefer fonts
with relatively large x-height instead of the ones with very long
ascenders and descenders coupled with small x-height--so long as we are
speaking of body text.

This kind of typographic control is only now making its way to the Web,

Often, these kinds of considerations become somewhat subliminal.
However, we've had many centuries to work out these kinds of
relationships in the printed typography arena, and it is not for nothing
that most books fall within a relatively small area of line width choices.

For example, I am composing this in the Eudora OSE email client. The
text flows to suit the size of the composition window. Just now, I
resized it back and forth to find the area in which I was most
comfortable reading--and, strangely enough, it resulted in a width very
similar to what is commonly used in books. I believe this is not simply
because of what I am used to, but also because it is so much simpler to
keep track of the lines as I read them.



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Re: Perfect Width for Your Online Content: From: David Neeley

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