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Tame Your Text Styles: How to keep your page content looking great

by Tim Rimington | August 29, 2011

Website Content Management Systems are a godsend. But is there a downside, an ugly face to content management that sends web designers scurrying under their desks and website customers reaching for the 'Back' button?

"Look, Mum, different colours and fonts for all to enjoy!"

Most CMS page editors include an editing task bar that features various fonts, colours and styles. So if going crazy with style is such a crime, why then does a website CMS include these font styles in the first place? As a website editor you want control over how your content appears. But there are simple guides you can follow to ensure the best possible conversion for your page's pitch.

Allow your website's inbuilt "style sheet" (css file) to control your text. This critical file sits quietly in the background of your website and ensures continuity across every page, but in the context of font control it only works when it's allowed to do its job.

Avoid restyling text with colour, and refrain from using large font sizes

As a rule, refrain from changing the colour or font size of paragraph text. Yes, your offer is fabulous and your readers mustn't miss out on your free steak knives but don't say it with multi-colour sentences.

You should also understand that it's accepted practice to change hyperlink text to a different colour so that it stands out as a hyperlink (typically blue and sometimes underlined). Web users know this. So changing the colour (and/or underlining) a string of words to grab attention will only confuse your readers into thinking that the re-styled text is a hyperlink when in fact it isn't. If you need an offer to stand out, use bold type or create a styled section heading for your offer instead (using a pre-styled 'Heading' tag).

In practice...

In this extreme example, users are lead to believe that the "place your order now" text is a hyperlink when in fact it isn't.

XYZ Widgets are now back in stock so hurry and place your order now to avoid dissapointment!!!!


Try this instead:

XYZ Widgets back in stock!

Avoid dissapointment and place your order now. Stock is limited! Order XYZ Widgets here.

Okay, not as visually "in your face"; some may ask the question, "Shouldn't there be a compromise between 'plain' and 'grabbing attention'?". The simple answer is "yes". But use colour and/or large type in moderation. If you need a message to really stand out, consider creating a graphics banner that could include your offer and call to action as a professionally styled poster.


Follow the leaders

Observe the styling used by big name, big brand websites as a guide. You'll never see paragraph text littered with different colours, and the styling across each page is more or less the same. If you need some flare within your content have your designer assign specific font colours and styles to your site's style sheet. Your designer will ensure that the colours used match or compliment those featured within your branding. Then learn the appropriate use of the 'Heading' tags and how Google views their use. Finally, a page shouldn't use more than 3 different fonts, at a push.

I'll talk more about other common mistakes in my next blog.

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