If you think it’s up to your designer, you’re wrong…
There is a perfect width for your blog’s content column, and I’m going to tell you what it is, and why.
But first, let’s talk about the main goal of your website.
Main Goal: Get People to Read Your First Few Sentences
Master copywriters like Joe Sugarman have long known about this fascinating facet of human reading behavior, and now you’ll learn about it too.
If you get people to read the first few sentences of your content or sales copy, they are much more likely to read your content or sales page through to the end.
The problem is, getting people to read those first few sentences is hard. Remember, when people visit your site, you have seconds to draw them in. If you don’t, you lose them.
And that’s where the perfect blog content width comes in. When you use it, you can get random visitors to read your first few sentences, and potentially, the rest of your content.
Of course, the perfect width won’t make up for horrible content. However, if you’re already writing well, using this tip should help you get your content read. Win.
How Wide Should You Make Your Content Column?
You would think that the answer is “it depends,” and you would be right, but not for the reason you’re thinking.
Typographical researchers, Bruijn eta al., discovered that people prefer shorter line lengths when reading content online because it appears more organized and easier to understand.
Going one step further, two other researchers, Dyson and Haselgrove, found that people comprehend shorter line lengths better than longer line lengths.
So, it seems that a shorter line length is preferable, right?
Nope. It’s not that easy…
The problem is, to ensure maximum comprehension and the appearance of simplicity, the perfect line length ranges between 40 and 55 characters per line, or in other words, a content column that varies between 250-350 pixels wide (it depends on font size and choice).
If you’re blogging or selling online, you’ll know that 300-400 pixels wide is much too thin. You have a lot of screen real estate to fill up, and despite the fact that people prefer shorter line lengths, they consistently read longer line lengths (100 CPL, or 500-600 pixels wide) faster.
So what can you do? How can you give people what they want, and keep them reading your content at a nice pace?
How to Use Short Line Lengths to Impress One-Off Visitors
The facts are clear. People prefer short line lengths, but it’s tough to give them it because such a small content width isn’t practical.
To combat this, I suggest you use this little trick I developed. Remember, if you want people to read your content, you only need to get them to read the first few sentences.
So, the trick is, make the beginning part of your article a shorter line length than the rest of your article.
How do you limit the line length towards the beginning of your article? Use an half-width image below your headline like this:
Pretty cool, right? You can begin your article with a short line length, use an eye-grabbing image, and get people to dive into your content without any problems. Big win!
The Perfect Blog Content Width
Now that you know about my image trick, I can recommend a perfect content width for your blog or sales page. And the perfect width is between 480 and 600 pixels.
Why did I choose this range? It’s practical for most blog and sales page designs. Plus, 100 characters per line, the optimal line length for reading speed, also happens to fall between that range depending on your font size and choice.
Additionally, remember, the size of your image will vary depending on your content width, too. You want to hit that 40-55 characters per line sweet spot, and to do that, you’ll need an image with a width ranging from 180 to 300 pixels wide…depending on your content column.
What do you think? Will you start using this strategy on your blog or sales page? Leave a comment below.
Source: If you liked the research I referenced in this article, let’s thank Mary C. Dyson. She wrote the academic article “How Physical Text Layout Affects Reading From the Screen,” and that’s where I pulled much of my content width data from.