What does it do?
Measure how easy the writing in this website is to understand.
Why is it important?
As a general principle, making text easier to read aids the usability of a website, which in turn makes it more likely to be used, and used successfully. Copywriting on websites is often sub-standard, and impenetrable marketing and technical jargon compromises the effectiveness of a website.
What is reading age?
Reading age measures the amount of formal education a person needs to have had (on average) to comprehend a piece of text.
For example, a reading age of 15 means a person who has been formally educated until age 15 will on average be able to understand that text.
Note that even in highly developed countries that average reading ages for the adult population are typically much lower than the 16 or 18 you might expect. For example, in the UK about half of working adults have a reading age of 11 or lower.
How is it measured?
Sitebeam uses the SMOG index to assess readability.
Only portions of the site containing significant text are evaluated (for example, we ignore menus, footers and so forth). Pages with very small amounts of text are also ignored (typically these say things such as ‘Please wait’). All other pages are scored on a sliding scale from 0 to 10, with highly readable pages scoring 10 and virtually unintelligible pages scoring 0.
Legal pages (such as Terms and Conditions) are automatically excluded from this test, wherever these pages are detected.
See SMOG index on Wikipedia.
The test is impossible to run on non-English websites, as these metrics are specifically designed for the English language. The test should automatically detect and exclude non-English sentences.
If not enough English text is found in the website, this test will hide itself and report an information score.
How to improve this score
Review the worst performing (i.e. hardest to read) pages for this test, and wherever possible rewrite them to be easier to understand. As a general rule, avoid jargon, complex words and keep your sentences short. Use a professional copywriter, or review the guidelines on plain English.
How to use this test effectively
Use this test to ensure your writing is pitched at the right level for your audience.