Even in today’s world of Flash animation, animated GIFs, sound files, VRML and other dazzling special effects, the basic reason why people surf the web is to read. Yes, the pictures are great, and yes the animations are wonderful, but what people really care about is what you’ve got to say.

That being said, it’s so very important that you don’t destroy your message by presenting your text in ways that discourage people from reading.

One of the most classic mistakes is to make your text very small. After all, you’ve got a lot to say and you want it to fit on one screen, right? So why not make it as small as you can?

There are times when you want to make the text small. A link at the bottom of your page to your privacy notice is a good example. If someone wants to see this they will find it. Otherwise, it’s just something that you have to put there.

Another mistake is to TYPE IN ALL UPPER CASE. This, fortunately, is generally restricted to the newest of the newbies. People soon learn that all caps does not mean “give me your attention” on the web – it means shout in your face. It’s also a good way to get people to hit the back key.

On the other hand, a very common problem is to make your text a similar color to your background. If I run into a page with everything like this I hit the back button fast.

Thank god most people understand hat blinking characters are not cool (and not supported by Internet Explorer, which is a good thing).

Something which I see all of the time is sites which use non-standard fonts. I know that the special font which you paid a hundred dollars for is awesome, but believe me I’ve not going to pay a hundred dollars just to see your web site display correctly.

You can get away with this, if you include a button to download the font and complete instructions for installing it. Be sure to include an alternate, more common font in your font list though, for those people who do not want to download the correct one.

You can use downloadable fonts, but be aware that browser support and standards are spotty at best. Even if you do include downloadable fonts, be sure and specify alternates in your <font> tags just in case the browser did not do the download.

To sum it up, what I do is simple. I write my document, then sit back from the screen about 4 feet. If I can still read the text without trouble, then I ask my wife to do the same thing. If we can both read it, then the document is fine. Otherwise, something has to change.