I’ve had the good fortune of working for clients with lots of analytics data, and circa 1000 users online at any given time. This Big Data can lead to some interesting insights, sometimes when you’re least expecting them.
After idly going through some of the lesser-used Google Analytics (GA) data, this is one of those “sometimes” that resulted in a change to a client’s website.
360 × 640
1920 × 1080
Full HD laptop/monitor
1366 × 768
Generic 15.6” laptop WXGA
1568 × 864
375 × 667
iPhone 6, 7, 8
Google Analytics: Top 5 screen resolutions of website's users
One of these is not like the other: There is no manufacturer in the world that makes a screen with a resolution of 1536 × 864, yet there it is, 4th in my GA audience data with over 5% of the market, standing out like a sore thumb.
A bit of mental calculator arithmetic tells me that 1536 × 864 is in fact a Full HD resolution screen but at 125% zoom level. The question that any insightful minded person would ask is “why are users having to zoom in?”
The base font of the website was 16 pixels across all screen sizes, and even though 16 pixels is the default for browsers – a standard from over 20 years ago – screen sizes, pixel density and design best practices have changed.
The rise of Full HD laptops
Full HD has become the de facto standard for 15.6 inch laptops. What used to be a “premium feature” is now available on laptops under 400€. Compared to a WXGA laptop, Full HD has 140% more pixels in the same space – this increase of pixel density results in smaller text. At 16px an uppercase “M” will be 3mm high on a WXGA laptop compared to just over 2mm on a Full HD laptop.
The problem with small text
Small text is harder to read, not just because of the size of the letters, but also because smaller text leads to longer line length, and longer line length requires greater concentration, whereas greater concentration results in fatigue with a likelihood that users will bounce from the page.
Studies show that we read as little as 28% of content on webpages. We are more prone to scanning text in the F-Shaped Pattern than reading every paragraph. Concentrated “book style” reading is not a common pattern on the web. Online, the first ten words are more important than the next hundred.
Online, the first ten words are more important than the next hundred.
Reasons to go bigger
Increasing the size of the typeface certainly improves legibility and will help the “vision” of older users, but the main benefit for all demographics comes from the improvement to readability.
Seniors (65 and Older)
Users Aged 21–55
Let's take a look at human aging and web use: For vision and dexterity, 100% would indicate no problems using websites. For memory, the scores indicate the percentage of items introduced early in the test session that users could recall correctly at the session’s end.
As you can see from the above table, older users over the age of 65 as well as younger users face the same problems with memory, more so for older users, but still significant for users aged under 55.
A larger font size requires less content – don’t use 20 words when 5 will do. Superfluous information about a product or service should be removed, to make pertinent information easier to find.
Moreover, larger body text requires more whitespace, allowing the layout more room to “breathe”. Less text on the screen at any one time reduces the cognitive load, resulting in improved usability.
Digital natives, Millennials, who grew up with digital interfaces are far more likely to use browser tabs to separate the stages of collection and comparing. These tabs serve as memory aids to keep many alternate pages available for consideration as users are shopping or researching. Having all the relevant information about the product in an easy to scan format will be beneficial.
Finding a design that appeals equally to older and younger users, is easy to navigate and has just the right amount of content to be both informative without being overwhelming is no easy task. Whilst there are no silver bullets, one thing should be apparent: