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Text Align - To Justify or Left Align?

     
3:41 pm on Feb 10, 2007 (gmt 0)

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Hi guys,

after reading several hours about usability and accessibility in many other boards and on many other websites I am confused about using text-aling:justify any longer.

On the first view, justified aligned text really looks better regarding a websites as whole. But now I read, that justified text is only useful for print media and definitely not for web publishing.

What are your experiences as a designer? And what did you experience as a "simple" user?

To justify or not to justify - that´s my question :-)

I found this question from the archive, but I couldn't find a satisfactory answer in that thread.

Can you all vote whether you prefer to read justified text or left align text for a website? Assume a line of text is about three quarter of your monitor screen which is quite wide. (P/S: I'm not referring to the narrow columns of text)

4:34 pm on Feb 10, 2007 (gmt 0)

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text-align:left;
- that is my preference.

Hhhhmmm, I've noticed this more recently... When I see justified text on screen / on a website, it often seems to prompt me to ask 'why?'. If I am asking 'why', it is detracting from my reading and detracting me away from the content of the site. Although maybe I'm looking at the site from a different perspective in the beginning?! It's those expanses of white-space in the first few lines that get me - but maybe that's more in those 'narrow columns of text' you mention.

I've always considered 'justified' text in print to be something of an artform - something for the typographer. Avoiding snaking columns of white-space in the copy etc... and website text justification does nothing with kerning (the space between the letters).

7:34 pm on Feb 10, 2007 (gmt 0)

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i align everything to the left and use ­ on long words... the best of both worlds. (although ­ doesn't work on firefox and looks pretty grotty in a couple of other browsers)
3:47 am on Feb 11, 2007 (gmt 0)

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Use justified text only for presentational purpose... if you want your visitors to focus more on the informations, rather the way they are looking, use left alignment.

IMHO,
Mehigh

11:23 am on Feb 11, 2007 (gmt 0)

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i align everything to the left and use ­ on long words... the best of both worlds.

londrum, just curious... are you suggesting the use of ­ (soft hyphen) as an alternative to justification? As I would assume that if you used ­ with text-align:left you would also use ­ with text-align:justify... the two are unrelated ...?

10:04 pm on Feb 11, 2007 (gmt 0)

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I would assume that if you used ­ with text-align:left you would also use ­ with text-align:justify

yup, i use it as an alternative. i use ­ with all of text aligned to the left. i only use it on long words though - otherwise it starts to really add to the page weight. that way you end up with something pretty pleasant, without having all those expanded spaces that you get with justify.

you could use ­ on middle-sized words too, with text-align:justify turned on as well i suppose, but that seems like overkill to me.

10:55 pm on Feb 11, 2007 (gmt 0)

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Pity that ­ doesn’t work with Gecko engined products (Firefox, Mozilla, etc.). It’s one of their bigger annoyances :(

As I understand it the technical reason as to why justify is frowned on in a web setting is ‘rivers’ of white space that appear when larger spacing gaps align over three or more lines. These rivers distract the eye by drawing it down and away from the text it was originally reading. In a print setting this can be controlled manually on a block by block basis, but obviously this doesn’t translate to the web which is always laid out automatically.

2:22 am on Feb 12, 2007 (gmt 0)

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Using ­ to 'split' words.... Ah, so you're saying that if you have enough 'smaller' word parts, it's getting closer to justification - ok.

"...rivers of white space..." - like the terminology! However, just to contradict myself (above) regarding a strong preference towards text-align:left - I have just been styling a few pages that involve columns of slightly smaller than average text and text-align:justify is certainly working alot better in this case - in my opinion! text-align:left for everything else though! :)

8:45 am on Feb 23, 2007 (gmt 0)

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have just been styling a few pages that involve columns of slightly smaller than average text and text-align:justify is certainly working alot better in this case - in my opinion! text-align:left for everything else though!

hmmm, it seems from what you're saying is that the deciding factor would be how wide is the column of text.
For narrow columns, justify would look better.
For wide columns, align left would look better.

But wouldn't a narrower column lead to more uneven white space i justified? A longer column of text has more room to even out the white space, no?

2:21 pm on Feb 23, 2007 (gmt 0)

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For me I have no preference which I use. Sometimes justify looks better on a design than it does to the left. Other times it's the reverse.

Not much help am I? :)

3:08 pm on Feb 24, 2007 (gmt 0)

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hmmm, it seems from what you're saying is that the deciding factor would be how wide is the column of text.
For narrow columns, justify would look better.
For wide columns, align left would look better.

Well, generally, I think I would follow that line of thought - yes. So, in answer to your original query... align left. (my opinion)

But wouldn't a narrower column lead to more uneven white space i justified? A longer column of text has more room to even out the white space, no?

Hhmm, yes, you would have thought. My 'narrow columns of justified text' that I mentioned above weren't too narrow and perhaps by the luck of the text I didn't seem to get any "rivers of white space" trailing down the page - so maybe I was just lucky?! If you have wide columns of 'larger' text I don't think it needs to be justified in order to keep a readers concentration, since you are only ever seeing a relatively small portion of the text anyway, whereas with smaller text and narrower columns there is a lot more visible text, so its justification maybe important...?

Another thread from a couple of years back, that goes into quite a bit of detail about typography... including how justified text can improve a readers comprehension (in printed media at least)...
[webmasterworld.com...]

Sometimes justify looks better on a design than it does to the left. Other times it's the reverse.

Well, I recon that's it - it depends on your layout. :)

3:18 pm on Feb 24, 2007 (gmt 0)

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I prefer justified to left in most cases since it helps to keep the paragraph together by giving it a more block-like form; a left-aligned paragraph looks quite chaotic and aesthetically inferior to me.