From high schoolers to college grads and PhDs to retirees, consumers from all walks of life need to access retail websites. The design and words used on a website created to sell a product should be simple. In general, copywriting that grabs attention is clever and interesting, but easy to understand. There are numerous factors to consider when designing your site and evaluating readability. One of them is the Flesch Reading Ease measurement. We are diving into what that is, where it started and what to consider when increasing readability.
Flesch Reading Ease – What Is It?
Flesch Reading Ease measures two aspects of a text:
- Average Sentence Length: this measurement is based on the number of words and the length of those words.
- Average Number Of Syllables Per Word
Today, search engine optimization (SEO) plug-ins like Yoast use this measurement when gauging an article’s SEO score. If a person has trouble parsing what you’ve written for meaning, human-like AI will too. If an audience can easily read and understand your text, they are more likely to stay on the page—bolstering SEO. If your writing is clear and specific, search engines can more accurately match your content’s language with the search terms of those seeking it.
The Origins Of The Measurement
Flesch Reading Ease was established a long time ago by a literacy expert and prolific writer named Dr. Rudolf Flesch. Flesch did not intend the score to impact SEO. At the time, internet writing was not on his radar. A champion for literacy, Flesch supported the phonics method of learning to read, which teaches students to sound words out instead of memorizing sight words. He wrote several books about simplifying the way we write.
While the literary among us may be concerned that reading ease and accessibility might make writing less beautiful, we would argue the contrary. Succinctly and clearly presenting complex ideas is often more effective than stringing together a slew of $10 words. There’s elegance in summing up big ideas with plain language —and value in making sure wide and varied audiences should be able to access your messages and meaning. When writing is too complex, or the point isn’t right up front, you’ll lose most of the audience.
How Does The Scoring Work?
Flesch’s scoring method
90 – 100: very easy to read, easily understood by an 11-year-old students
80 – 90: easy to read
70 – 80: fairly easy to read
60 – 70: easily understood by 13 to 15-year-old students
50 – 60: fairly difficult to read
30 – 50: difficult to read, best understood by college students
0 – 30: very difficult to read, best understood by university graduates
The rule of thumb is to aim to hit at least a 70 score.
Other Ways To Think About Readability
Flesch reading ease isn’t the only means by which to evaluate a text for readability. It only looks at two factors and it’s important to note that one can write short sentences filled with short words and say very little. Accessible text can get bogged down by design elements like crowded homepages, distracting fonts, unclear navigation and short but boring prose. Whenever you are designing a website or composing a message, simple and straightforward is key. There’s certainly a sweet spot between readability and interest. Don’t overthink it—a winning retail website should include these key components:
- High-quality visual representations of products being sold
- Simple, no-fuss navigation
- Clear, succinct and inviting copy that subtly supports your brand’s persona
Remember to put yourself in the shoes of all possible audiences when building content. Online shopping can and should make retail more accessible and inclusive for those with physical limitations and disabilities. Increasing readability (including word choices and sentence structures, fonts, colors, information organization and overall design) can help ensure that you’re not accidentally obscuring access for those patrons in particular.