by anthony on 01/19/11 at 2:28 pm
Text is a beautiful thing. It not only has function, but form as well. When you’re creating text, it’s likely that you’re not only thinking about what your text should say, but how it should look. On the web, centered and left aligned text are the most widely used text alignments. How you use these text alignments can either help or harm your users when they read.
Left aligned text is easier to read than centered text for paragraphs. This is because when you center your text, the starting place of each line changes. This forces your users to work harder to find where each line begins to continue reading. Without a straight left edge, there is no consistent place where users can move their eyes to when they complete each line. However, when your paragraph text is left aligned, a straight left edge appears. Users can read each line by simply moving their eyes to the left edge each time. This makes your paragraphs faster and easier to read because the user’s eyes don’t have to work as hard to find where the line starts each time.
Centered text is best used for headlines and short lines of text. Users can read them with ease because the lines are short, scannable and don’t need repeated eye movements. Centered text can also give your layout an aesthetic look with its symmetrical format. This works for text that go with centered images. If your images are left or right aligned, you should left align your text to keep it consistent with your layout.
One other mistake you should never make is to combine centered text with left aligned text together. For example, a centered headline should not go with a left aligned paragraph. This is because the unsymmetrical line lengths of the paragraph can give the headline the appearance that it’s slightly off-center. You also lose the symmetrical appearance of your paragraph, defeating the purpose of having a centered headline. Centered headlines should go with centered text. Left aligned headlines should go with left aligned text. Avoid mixing the two together so that your text doesn’t look unbalanced.
Following these guidelines will help make your text look appealing and easy to read. What your text says to users is important, but how your text looks can affect your users too.