Making your point: Selecting text and illustrationsShort and sweet: Simplifying text
The reading ability of your visitors is likely to vary widely. Research shows that communication is most effective when text is aimed towards the 5th grade reading level (approximately 10 years old). Furthermore, text should be written in a conversational tone and have the following characteristics:
Saltwater crocodiles, often referred to as 'salties', have wide snouts and with their aggressive nature, are more of a threat to humans than their smaller, narrow-snouted and more docile freshwater cousins.
The good, the bad and the ugly: Formatting textThe overall appearance of signs can also have a significant impact on their appeal and readability.
They are written in larger type and are well spaced rather than all squashed up so they are difficult to read. Type size is partly guided by the distance between the reader and the sign - the further away the reader, the larger the font required.
Lines of text comprise between 40 and 65 characters (including spaces). This works out to approximately 10 words on each line.
They are written in serif (with tails) typefaces such as the one used for this text (Times New Roman). Sans serif typefaces don't have tails and can be harder to read, although the one used here (Arial) is often used for short pieces of text. Sans Serif is commonly used for computer screen text however.
They have a uniform style (eg. font size, typeface) throughout the text, and only introduce changes (eg. italics) to emphasise key points or titles.
The text is written in lower case rather than UPPER CASE WHICH IS TIRING TO READ. IN ADDITION, TEXTS WRITTEN IN UPPER CASE GIVE THE IMPRESSION THAT THE WORDS ARE BEING SHOUTED.
The text is broken up into paragraphs using headings and sub-headings
Information is presented in 'layers' (see section 2).
Margins are left justified with standard spaces between words.
The type contrasts clearly with the background eg. dark type on a light background or
Other good colour combinations are
Hint: Red on green and green on red should be avoided as colour-blind people will be unable to distinguish the two. Black on yellow is very easy to read but may not be appropriate for all settings.
Pictures paint a thousand wordsSigns are more readable if they include illustrations (eg. pictures, photographs, diagrams, maps) that relate to the content of your messages. Illustrations make your signs attractive, easier to read and more memorable. Illustrations are particularly useful for:
- describing objects, people or places mentioned in the text;
- representing abstract structures (eg. water cycles);
- showing spatial relationships (eg. solar system);
- maps and way finding;
- demonstrating instructions (eg. how to operate an interactive display);
- putting unfamiliar topics into context (eg. recreations of ruined buildings); and
- emphasising key points.
It is particularly important to ensure that illustrations of sequential events are presented in a logical order. As English is read from left to right, sequences or timelines should also be presented in this order to prevent confusion.
The decision about whether or not to include illustrations should be based on the following 'rules':
- Illustrations must be relevant to the topic. If the link between the text and the accompanying illustrations is not obvious, visitors are likely to become confused and may not read any further.
- Illustrations should be simple and not require extra text (other than a label/caption) to explain them. Remember a picture should paint a thousand words!
- It is easier to read labels than legends or keys.
- Illustrations should demonstrate one main idea.
- Illustrations should be positioned so signs are balanced and not too crowded.