Make Me Think About Length

Lynch & Horton: Page Width and Line Length


Area of the retina used for tasks requiring high visual acuity. At reading distance, visual field is a few inches wide, so columned writing is easier to read than longer line lengths.


I've never heard of a macula before, but now that I'm introduced to it, I can relate. I've always felt columns are easier to read, and now I know why. When reading a newspaper, I only have to move my eyes vertically. I don't have to put forth the effort to follow each line horizontally and then try to find the point where the next line starts. The shorter the length of the line, the faster I'm able to move my way down the page.
I played with the idea when doing the reading, and it actually works to make the webpage smaller. However, any webpage with figures in which the size is set will cause the hassle of enlarging the page to be able to read the figure.

Page Length

Four Factors


Readers lose context when titles, identifiers, and links disappear from the page. No more than two screens worth of info, and have to have links and buttons at the beginning and end of each page.
This is good for:

Pro-Long Webpage

Best of Both Worlds

Provide both versions. One with navigational buttons. Add a link to the full length version for printability.


The Web Style Guide is meant to be read in print. I'm reading it online, but I don't feel disoriented. I think the ease of creating one long webpage often trumps the disadvantages of scrolling. However, this is only if the page is well-constructed and sectioned. I didn't get disoriented while reading Lynch and Horton because the headings of each section are almost always in view. I remember what section I'm in, and know what it's talking about.
I don't think it's so much whether it's meant to be read online or offline, but rather whether its supposed to be read or simply looked at. For example, if I go to the website of a sports team, I have a specific purpose in being there. An objective. To fulfill the objective, I want to quickly find a link to where I need to go. I don't want to scroll through everything on the site until I find the one thing I'm looking for.

Page Stratification

Above the Fold: Each page of a website has the initial part of the page that is in the viewing area. Each one has to attract the reader, while giving the necessary and expected information for what is on that page.
The bottom of each screen length should have something to draw the reader to the next one.


Is this actually true? When I'm on a webpage, I don't get to the bottom of the screen before I start to scroll. I usually keep the line I'm reading toward the top of the page, or else I scroll every time I finish a paragraph of text. I don't think putting something visually attractive toward the bottom of the screen is that effective.

Web Writing Part 3

Less Really Is More

When writing for the web:

Write Long, Then Trim

Keep Sentences Simple

I think most people could read the first sentence, and it would flow just fine. Plus, if people didn't know what a complex compound sentence was, the bottom sentence would be useless to them.

Don't use words just to use words

Obviously. Simpler is better, unless longer is more effective.

Dead phrases are zombies

Hot Text

Don't Make Me Read

People read 25% slower on a screen compared to on paper. I believe it, screens aren't fun.

People Use Text, to Put Off Reading

Cut On-Screen and Off

It says to do this, but then completely advocates for on-screen editing, and that makes sense because the content is being published online anyway. You want to see it where it is going to end up.

Take Several Whacks

After cutting once and going back over it, you'll realize more content can go.
Go through and cut a few times to be sure all the unnecessary words are gone.

Save the Meaning, Cut the Rest

Words that have been included just to emphasize your
sincerity, like really and truly
Yes, all good to leave out. However, those should all be cut out of the print version as well, so I don't know how they expect it to be cut in half from there.

Long Vs. Short Articles Content Strategy

Cost Benefit Metrics for Reading

Long Vs. Short Matchup

How did he select these statistics? There's no evidence of these being accurate.

Excerpt: "If you read my assumptions carefully, you'll notice why the math favors short articles: I assumed that short articles were 60% of the length of the long articles but still provided 70% of the benefit."
The fact that he put this in there points toward him wanting the results he got. He chose a desired result, and then picked the value of each length of article. I don't trust the study at all.

When Long Has Value

If every third article produced 10 benefit units (because it was on something that people needed to know more details about), the value of the long articles are higher.

The Best Result: write both.

Four Cases

Case One: Moto Message

Case Two: Design Boost

Case Four: ConversionXL

Why Is That?

When Is Each Length Better?

This simply depends on the site and the audience that it's reaching.
Solution: Make a version of each, do an A/B test, and use the site with the best results.
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