How does text alignment affect readability?


Text alignment in design affects how users scan, navigate, and perceive information on a screen. The right text alignment increases readability, reduces cognitive load, creates visual hierarchy, and improves user experience in business applications. 

A few alignment tips for better scannability and readability: 

  • Left-align body text. 
  • Center short headings, titles, call-to-action elements (CTA), and short pieces of text (two to three lines) to grab the reader’s attention. Avoid centered alignment for long passages.
  • Right-align text for right-to-left languages (Arabic, Hebrew) and data and numbers in tables/cards. 
  • Do not use justified text. The natural spacing between words makes it easier to scan and find information.
  • Use hanging alignment for icons, bullets, or quote commas.
  • Be careful with hyphenation; poor breaks can confuse readers and interrupt their flow.
  • Maintain consistent alignment within each section or text block.

Deep dive

Alignment in typography plays a key role in making content easy to scan and read. Text arrangement impacts how the brain processes information visually and cognitively. To design effectively, it's crucial to know not only where to place text but also when and why to use various types of text alignment.

Align text to the left for easier reading

The human eye naturally reads in a left-to-right, top-to-bottom pattern. By aligning text to the left for most Western languages, you mimic this behavior, making content easier to follow. This provides visual anchors, allowing eyes to easily return to the beginning of each new line and improving reading speed.

Visualization of the left text alignment.

Research by Ling and van Schaik on the effects of line spacing and text alignment revealed that both factors significantly impact task performance. Wider line spacing improved accuracy and sped up reaction times, while left-aligned text boosted performance over justified text, even though people might prefer the appearance of justified text. This study highlights the importance of prioritizing readability over pure aesthetics in text alignment.

Remember: For right-to-left languages like Arabic, Hebrew, or Persian, when localizing UI, align the text to the right instead of the left.

Use center alignment for small text blocks to capture attention and emphasize key points 

Center alignment breaks the usual reading flow, which helps highlight important information:

  • Headings and titles: Center alignment creates a visual hierarchy, making headings and titles stand out.
  • Shortlists and call to action (CTA) elements: Centering draws attention to these important parts of your content.

However, avoid center typography alignment for longer text blocks (more than three lines) as it can make reading difficult by requiring extra eye movements.

Visualization of the center text alignment.

Right-align text when displaying data and numbers

In contexts like dashboards or data-heavy interfaces, right alignment helps users quickly scan and compare figures, particularly when placed next to left-aligned text.

Visualization of the right text alignment.

Justified alignment – generally not recommended

While justified alignment can create a clean rectangular shape for body text, it often has irregular spacing between words. This creates uneven gaps between words, called "rivers" or "holes"  of white space. This text alignment can reduce readability which is a critical aspect of user interfaces in business applications.

If your UI concept requires justified alignment, use proper word hyphenation to avoid breaks and white space between words.

Visualization of the justified text alignment.

Related reading: Justification & hyphenation by Google Fonts

Use hanging alignment for UI elements with less visual weight

Use hanging alignment for UI elements like icons, bullets, quote commas, and other elements that lack the visual weight of text. Hanging them helps organize the interface and creates a clear reading path, preventing zig-zag eye movements.

Visualization of the hanging text alignment.

Use consistent alignment within content blocks 

Maintain consistent alignment within each content block. Using different alignments in the same section can disrupt the visual flow and confuse the reader.

An example of the consistent alignment on the 11 Sight website.

11 Sight’s consistent alignment 

Remember about accessibility standards

The alignment of text can greatly affect readability and accessibility, especially for users with dyslexia, low vision, or those using assistive technologies.

 An example of the text that meets accessibility standards.

The Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) recommend avoiding full justification and limiting center justification to 1-2 line text blocks. If center justification is used, offer an option to change it. Ensure content remains functional and doesn't lose information when the text alignment is changed.

For most languages, left alignment is the safest choice for body text. It creates a consistent edge that helps users with visual tracking issues or dyslexia. For right-to-left languages like Arabic, Hebrew, or Persian, right alignment works best.

Test across devices 

When designing responsive interfaces, make sure your alignments are straightforward and easy to read on any device. Check your designs on different devices and screen sizes to make sure your alignment choices make the content clear and help users navigate your content easily.

Here are some additional tips for mobile-specific alignment:

  • Prioritize scannability: Break up long text blocks into smaller chunks with clear headings and bullet points. This makes information easier to scan and digest on the go.
  • Keep line lengths short: Aim for shorter line lengths (around 30-40 characters) for body text on mobile. This reduces eye strain and improves readability. 
  • Prioritize vertical rhythm: With limited horizontal space, vertical rhythm becomes crucial on mobile. Use consistent spacing between lines and paragraphs to create a sense of order and avoid visual clutter.

Screenshots of Airbnb's desktop and mobile interfaces.

Questions designers should ask themselves

By asking the right questions, designers can question their decisions, find areas to improve, make sure nothing is overlooked, and reduce mistakes, leading to better, more thoughtful designs.

  • What is the primary purpose of the text content (e.g., long-form reading, data comparison, hierarchical organization)?
  • Are there specific content types that require different alignments (e.g., headings, data tables, lists)?
  • Are there any language or cultural considerations that may impact reading patterns and alignment preferences?
  • How will the text alignment impact the overall visual hierarchy and information architecture?
  • How can text alignment be optimized for different screen sizes and responsive layouts?

Common mistakes to avoid

Learning from your mistakes is important, but many problems can indeed be predicted and avoided. Based on Cieden's collective expertise, we're sharing the most common ones.

  • Using centered alignment for long paragraphs or large blocks of text.
  • Failing to align numerical data consistently.
  • Ignoring hierarchy and white space while aligning your content.
  • Justified text with uneven spacing between words
  • Mixing multiple alignment styles within a single content block or section.
  • Neglecting line length and spacing considerations.
  • Overlooking language and cultural differences in reading patterns and alignment preferences

Useful tools 

These tools will make your job easier and more effective.

Figma Auto Layout – use a powerful set of tools for managing text alignment in UI design and streamline your design workflow.


These methodologies will make your job easier and more effective. 

  • Typography scales (e.g., Modular Scale, Golden Ratio). Typography scales offer a structured way to choose font sizes and line heights, creating harmonious text.
  • Responsive design frameworks (e.g., Bootstrap, Foundation). These frameworks come with a range of predefined alignment classes and grid systems, perfect for creating designs that are consistent and responsive across various devices and screen sizes.
  • Gestalt principles. Gestalt psychology explores how the human brain perceives and organizes visual information. Principles like proximity, similarity, and continuity can guide designers in creating visually cohesive and easily navigable text layouts.

Keep exploring 

Never stop growing 🤓 Explore resources thoughtfully handpicked by Cieden’s designers. 


Our content combines the knowledge of Cieden’s designers with insights from industry influencers. Big thanks to all the influencers for sharing awesome content!

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