How wide should a column be?
Many studies have been performed over the decades that show that it's easier to read a narrow column of text than it is to read a wide column. The reasons are many, but the primary one is that, by the time you reach the end of a wide line of type, way over there on the right side of a page or screen, it's hard to quickly snap your eye back to the left and pick up at the next line. If the column is narrow and your vision has only tracked an inch or two or three to the right, it's very easier to snap back to left without losing your place.
This is why newspapers and magazines are all printed in columns. It's also why novels have wide margins and narrow pages.
That's why I noted with some amusement an irony in this Usability News article, titled "The Effects of Line Length on Children and Adults? Online Reading Performance," which posits that "...it has been recommended by researchers that shorter line lengths (about 60 CPL [characters per line]) should be used in place of longer, full-screen lengths..."
What's so ironic? Count the article's characters per line.
Filed in: design, typography, usability, web dev