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Document Layout, Usability & Readability

document design

The only reason that companies or individuals create documents is for others to read. If a company brochure, document or sales literature is poorly designed, customers will be less likely to pick it up in the first place, and even less likely to read it through to the end. When coming up with a standard for company documents, there are a few key points to consider.

Brand Image

Most big companies have a “house style” for creating documents, emails and letters and staff are expected to use this when communicating with customers and suppliers. All staff should be made aware of the in house style, and should be encouraged to use it to ensure a consistent brand image.


Gone are the days where a typewriter was used to produce letters, and we now have a huge range of fonts at our disposal. Choosing a font to use for a company’s documents is a minefield. A good font choice will reflect what the company is about. For example, a children’s party entertainer can use a font such as Comic Sans, but the same font would not be appropriate for a law firm.

Serif versus Sans Serif

All fonts used are sorted into two main groups, serif and sans serif. A serif font uses small lines at the end of the printed and according to studies, these sorts of fonts can be read more easily than the other types. Examples of popular serif fonts are Courier and Times New Roman. Sans serif fonts are more often used for headlines or short bursts of texts only.

Line Spacing

Document formatting using appropriate line spacing can greatly affect how readable text is. Densely packed, single spaced text in a small font may appear intimidating and confusing, and text which is double spaced, in a larger font can appear clear and less threatening. The most appropriate document layout will depend on the market sector of the company and the effect which they are trying to achieve.


When publishing documents online, extra care should be taken to ensure that they are easily read by customers. Customers should be able to easily magnify the size of the text, and it should be spaced well enough so that the screen does not appear too “busy”. Colour should be taken into consideration also, as something like yellow text on a white background is almost impossible to decipher.


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Posted by Tom Wilson-Copp

Tom Wilson-Copp is a document design and production consultant who specialises in the project management and delivery of B2B services including design, localisation, off-line production and digital marketing.
With over 12 years experience working within the business services industry, Tom has worked for both large multinationals as well as bespoke service agencies.