Why you shouldn’t make neat text columns on your website

Reading Time: 2 minutes

Lately, I’ve come across more and more people who want to create nice-looking columns, also known as ‘justified text’ on their website because it ‘looks good’. Do you want to have these nice-looking columns on your website, too? The problem with this is that your site shouldn’t only look good, it should be easy to read & use.

There’s a difference between reading on a screen and reading on paper

Reading on a screen is fundamentally different from reading on paper. In a newspaper or book, justified text is the default. Reading on a screen is harder on the eyes as it is already, justified text on a screen will only make it harder.

For print (including PDFs and such), designers have a lot more control over spacing between letters & words to make sure the justified text has good readability. On the web, we don’t have that. Justified text creates what’s called “rivers” of white space. This is when the spaces between words line up with other lines of text, creating a column of space down the content.


This river within the text draws the eye away from the content making it more difficult to read. You lose your place in the text as a non-dyslexic reader, but even more so for dyslexic readers. Although the percentage of people with dyslexia is unknown, it has been estimated to be as low as 5% and as high as 17% of the population is dyslexic. You might want to make your website as user-friendly to both non-dyslexic readers and dyslexic readers.

Want to learn more about what you can do to make your text easier to read for dyslexic readers? This is an interesting read: 6 surprising bad practices that hurt dyslexic users.


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