What is website readability?

Website readability measures how easy it is to understand the content on your site, and how long it takes to read it.

To check the readability of a text, you need to analyse the style, the grammar, the structure of the text, and much more. While it seems like a big feat, you can learn what to do, and what to avoid to write a readable copy. But as a starting point, we would recommend one of the few amazing tools that check the readability for you:

If you’re on WordPress, the Yoast SEO plugin gives you the readability score in its free version. And if you’re less of a “cloud person”, Microsoft Word has a built-in readability checker that most people aren’t aware of.

Why is readability important?

People want to find the right information as fast as possible. When using the Internet, they have short attention spans. Pair that with the fact that written language is more complex than spoken language, and that reading from a screen usually takes longer than reading a print text, and we have a deadly combination.

People want to find the right information as fast as possible.

There’s a common misconception that a readable text is “basic”, or that it’s aimed at young people in their school age. A readability score is not a benchmark of your knowledge or sophistication. The purpose is to make the user experience as seamless as possible. Even if your highly educated audience can easily read a harder piece of content, it will obviously take longer for them to do so.

What’s a good readability score?

We gave you the tools and the reasoning – so now when is your text considered “readable”? Our rule of thumb for web copy is a Flesch Reading Ease of 60 or more, on a scale of up to 100. As a fun fact, the Flesch scale has no lower limit. Yes, we’ve seen text go into negative values!

To give you the general idea of how easy it is to read the text based on its score, here’s how each style is described:

For context, an 11-year old will easily understand text that scores over 90. People aged 13 to 15 can usually understand anything above 60, and scores under 30 are best understood by university graduates.

How to make your website easier to read

The best part about readability is its simple formula. You don’t need any tools to improve your copy. We’d still advise using the aforementioned readability checkers to verify, but here’s everything you need to know about the formula:

The Flesch Reading Ease score takes into account the average word count per sentence and the average syllables per word.

So in essence, you only need to do two things to make your content more readable:

7 tips to make your text easier to read

Readability is important, but it’s not the ultimate solution to your problems. Here are other tips that will improve your writing:

  1. Use fewer adverbs. You can use a stronger verb instead, and it will help you reduce the word count in sentences.
  2. Avoid passive voice. If you try rephrasing active sentences into passive ones, you’ll see that they usually use more words. By now, you know what’s the result of that. On top of that, passive voice requires more “brainpower”, as the structure of the sentences is complex.
  3. Forget long subordinate clauses.
  4. Don’t use sticky sentences. Glue words are the most common English words, such as: in, on, the, was, for, that, like, some, from, and much more. Yes, you’ve guessed it. A sticky sentence is longer.
  5. Consider sentence variety. We’re talking a lot about length, but short sentences aren’t the sweet spot. It would be hard to read paragraphs full of 5-word sentences. Variety keeps the text flowing. Don’t forget that the Reading Ease score has two components. The other one checks the ratio of syllables per word. Longer sentences with fewer syllables can be more readable than short ones.
  6. Careful with your scissors. You don’t need to cut every single adverb, or aim for super short sentences. There are various preferences based on the source, but usually the target of average sentence length is 11-18 words. The British Government has fantastic guidelines for their writers.
  7. Don’t flatter your audience. We’ve mentioned that a simple text doesn’t discredit your visitors’ ability to understand it. The point is to make their life easier. An average person reads at most 28% of the words on a page anyway, so what’s the point?

Are you struggling to sell on your website?

You know how to make it easy to read, but do you know how to make it sell? Here are our top tips.

Originally published Aug 13, 2021 4:20:40 PM, updated January 12 2022.

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