When designing for the web, you have to keep one thing in mind at all times: readability. It doesn’t matter how great the design is, how gorgeous your layout is, or how genius your use of color. If people can’t read the words on the screen (and this is assuming there are words on the screen, of course), the website cannot serve its function. Three of the most important elements of readability for text are kerning, tracking, and leading, though many people either get them confused or simply don’t understand how to use them effectively. We intend to fix that today.
Kerning, Tracking, and Leading
If you boil these three down to the absolute fundamentals, you’re looking at the spacing between characters on both the X and Y axes. Digging in, you’ll see there’s more to it than that, but in essence, you’re looking at the relationship between text characters. It’s important to understand the relationship between these three attributes because good design and readability depend on your using them to the best of your ability.
And that comes with time and practice. But once you start paying attention to them, you’ll notice how kerning, tracking, and leading are used both effectively and poorly on everything you read and see on a daily basis. Let’s dig in.
Adjusting Kerning, Leading, and Tracking (and More!)
Actually, before we dig in, let’s go over how you change and adjust these settings. While most word processing programs have options for adjusting them, most people won’t ever need to when writing copy or typical text. It’s when you’re designing text that it becomes more of an issue, so programs like Photoshop, Illustrator, etc. will have the options you need most.
In the Adobe products, you just have to open up the Text Layer Character Panel, and you have everything you need. The V/A is kerning, the VA in a box is tracking, and the underlined, vertical A’s are Leading. You can also adjust strikethrough, weight, size, super/subscript, and so much more in this panel. It’s worth getting used to keeping this open.
Just place your cursor where you need to adjust the spacing and go.
What is Kerning?
Let’s begin with kerning. Kerning is the simplest of the three, really. It’s the space between two side-by-side characters. In a word, you can have variable kerning because the space between the first two letters may be different than between the last two (and so on).
In monospaced fonts, each character takes up exactly the same amount of horizontal space with no overlap. The A is the same width as the B as the J as the K. Adjusting the kerning between these letters tends to be easier than variable spaced fonts, where the letters might overlap as well as print at different widths.
In the example above, we have three lines that were copy and pasted using the monospace font Courier New. The top row’s kerning is set at 0, which is the default and uses whatever spacing the font designer chose. The second row is set equally between letters (and spaces) at 200. As you can see, the spaces are uniform between characters across the line. Finally, the third line was kerned at random with both positive and negative spacing within each individual word. As you can see, each character can have different kerning on each side.
What is Tracking?
Tracking is similar to kerning, but it’s not kerning. Where kerning is the space between two individual characters, tracking is the uniform space between each individual word or line. Instead of worrying about how things are put together on a letter-by-letter basis as with kerning, you make sure the entire line is uniformly spaced. Looking back at the earlier example image, the second line could have been done in a much easier way.
What I did for the kerning was to place my cursor between each individual character and adjust to 200. I essentially tracked the whole line. Which is what you should do. Simply highlight what you need to track and adjust it in the Character Panel.
Be aware, however, that some fonts and scripts may become unreadable as the tracking is adjusted.
Handwriting fonts and cursive typefaces are set with specific kerning, and if you adjust the tracking, you will get gaps in an otherwise unbroken line. Or going the other direction to compress the lines, you might simply make the script unreadable.
What is Leading?
With Leading, you’re no longer dealing with spacing between characters. Leading is the space between lines.
Effectively making use of leading lets you effectively make use of whitespace in your designs. Cramped lines — even with correct and well-done kerning/tracking — can make a miserable experience for readers.
In some places, you might see leading called line height, but they’re roughly the same thing. One good rule of thumb is to make sure that you leave at least a little space above and below your characters. As you can see in the top example, a 40px font has a 48px line height. That means that no matter what, there will be spacing between the letters. If you set that at or lower than the font size, you will get character overlap.
Additionally, this is the height of the line that the characters sit on. This is not the height of the character. Just as kerning and tracking don’t make the characters fatter or thinner, tracking doesn’t make them shorter or taller. It is simply the space around them.
As you can see, however, the options under the kerning/tracking in the Photoshop Character Panel adjust the width/height of characters independently of kerning, tracking, and leading.
Photoshop/Illustrator Keyboard Shortcuts
The only downfall of the Character Panel is that it gets to be pretty annoying when you’re needing fine adjustment. Thankfully, there are keyboard shortcuts that make kerning, tracking, and leading an absolute breeze to use.
These shortcuts are for the Adobe Creative Cloud suite, so they might be different in Gimp or Paint.NET or another program.
- Kerning – With the cursor between two characters, hold ALT (or Option on Mac) and use the left/right arrows to adjust the kerning
- Tracking – With the word/line highlighted, hold ALT (or Option on Mac) and use the right/left arrows to adjust the tracking of the highlighted text
- Leading – Highlight the lines you want to adjust, hold ALT (or Option on Mac) and use the up/down arrows to adjust the space between lines
While you can place your cursor or highlight the text and type values into the Character Panel, the keyboard shortcuts make the whole process much less tedious and time-consuming. Plus, you get more granular control, so you can make better designs that way, too.
(As an aside, if you aren’t using Photoshop/Illustrator/Premier, etc. keyboard shortcuts regularly, we highly recommend learning, as it makes your workflow much smoother, more enjoyable, and more productive, too.)
Kerning, tracking, and leading are fundamentals of readable text in web design (and design in general). Learning the difference and how to use each of them effectively will make you a much better designer. It may seem a little odd that something as simple as the spacing between letters and lines could have such a large impact, but once you deal with it for even just a little while, you will never look at websites, advertisements, logos, or billboards the same way again.
Whether you work for a small business with just a few people, or a large corporation with branches in multiple cities, communication is important. Without strong communication between team members, it can be hard to stay focused on a common goal and achieve a high level of customer satisfaction. Fortunately, there are several apps that can streamline your communication efforts.
In this article, we’ll discuss the importance of internal communication for businesses, and talk about how using a communication app can make yours more successful. Then we’ll explore seven of the best company communication apps available.
Let’s get to it!
How a Communication App Can Improve Your Business
A communication app is a platform designed to make it easier for team members to work together. Apps provide a way to centralize information and enable team members to quickly seek additional information or help from others. Some may include other useful features, such as client communication or project management.
When it comes to completing projects successfully, communication is key. Strong internal communication has been shown to help team members stay focused on a common goal, instead of each pursuing their own idea of what the end product should look like. It also helps increase productivity and customer satisfaction.
While email can accomplish some of what a communication app might do, it generally isn’t as efficient. Chatrooms consolidate messages and keep responses in the correct order, making communication more organized and readable than long email threads. Even so, email is still useful for more formal communications, such as client updates.
Additionally, communication apps are useful for teams with remote members. Chatrooms and video conferencing provide fast, real time communication to help remote members feel they’re part of the team. Apps are also useful when people from branches in different cities need to work together to complete a project.
7 Best Company Communication Apps
There are a wide variety of communication apps available, with different features and focuses. We’ve compiled a list a of some of the best, highlighting their unique qualities to help you find the one that best meets your team’s needs.
Let’s take a look!
Slack is a predominantly chat-based app that was recently acquired by Atlassian of Trello fame. If you were a previous user of their other popular (and now discontinued) tool Hipchat, you might consider looking into Slack instead. It solves many of the problems of email chains by organizing conversations in ‘channels’.
Team members can join or leave channels as they need to avoid receiving irrelevant messages, and easily find old messages for reference down the line. Additionally, Slack enables you to share files, make voice calls, and host video conferences. It also integrates with tools including Dropbox, Google Drive, or even your company’s own software.
- Creates clear and organized channels you can join or leave at your convenience.
- Enables you to search messages for relevant information.
- Provides file sharing capabilities and integration with a wide variety of other platforms.
Price: Free – $15 per month, along with ‘per user’ fees | More Information
Providing several communication options in a single app, Basecamp enables you to interact with teammates in a variety of ways. These include Campfire, Basecamp’s real time chatroom, and message boards for organized conversations you can save for future reference. Plus, you can forward emails to the app, and send direct messages to individuals.
Basecamp emphasizes the importance of client communication as well. It enables you to include clients in conversations, and keep them updated via several project management features, including to-do lists, scheduled check-ins, reports, and progress charts. Basecamp will also handle your project calendar and file sharing and storage needs.
- Provides a vide variety of communication options, and the ability to ‘loop in’ clients.
- Enables easy progress updates including to-do lists, charts, and more.
- Includes additional project management features including calendars and file sharing.
Price: $99 per month | More Information
If you’d like to have face-to-face conversations with your team rather than use a chatroom, Zoom can provide the next best thing with group video chats. You can host one-on-one conversations or meetings of over 100 people. Private and group chats enable further discussion during conferences.
Plus, Zoom enables screen sharing to make presentations smooth and simple. It works on a variety of devices, including smart phone and tablets. Team members can join conferences with a phone call, and you can still use screen sharing on mobile devices. You can also use cloud recording to save conferences for future reference.
- Provides high quality video conferencing ideal for teams with remote members.
- Enables screen sharing on all devices.
- Offers recording and cloud storage options.
Price: Free – $199.50 per month | More Information
Bitrix24 not only helps with communication, but also enables task and team member management. It includes both video conferencing and chatrooms for real time communication, as well as the ability to create workgroups for specific assignments. You can pull in emails to create calendar events or tasks, too.
Bitrix24 includes workload management, time tracking, and task boards for managing your team. You can encourage collaboration with calendars, file sharing, and the ability to bring in external users, such as your clients.
- Includes chat and video conferencing options.
- Provides team management features such as time tracking and workload management.
- Enables collaboration with organized schedules, files, and client communication.
Price: Free – $199 per month | More Information
For those managing multiple teams or working with clients who already have their own internal communication system, Sameroom provides a way to chat without forcing anyone to give up their preferred platform. Instead, Sameroom connects platforms so you can chat with collaborators on other systems.
You can also use Sameroom to connect accounts on the same platform. For example, if you have a Slack channel for a client project, and the client also has a Slack channel for the project, you can connect the two channels so your team and your client’s team can see messages on both channels.
- Connects chat platforms so you can communicate with other teams without anyone having to switch platforms.
- Enables connections between different conversations on the same platform.
- Provides integrations with over 20 chat apps.
Price: Free – $5,000 per month | More Information
Though generally used as a project management tool, Asana can be adapted for internal communications as well. It enables you to hold group and one-on-one conversations with teammates, and the project boards will help you keep your team in the loop by showing which tasks have been completed.
You can also utilize task comments to inform teammates or ask questions about your progress on specific assignments. This will help you keep communications organized. In Asana you can easily manage your notifications regarding conversations and tasks to avoid receiving irrelevant communications as you would with long email chains.
- Includes project management features such as project boards that help keep team members in the loop.
- Provides comments for task-specific chats, and conversations for project-wide chats.
- Enables you to choose when you receive notifications.
Price: Free – $23.99 per month + per user fees | More Information
Another project management app with communication features, Wrike, enables you to send teammates chats that appear directly in their workspace. This minimizes time spent moving back and forth between sections of the app, and ensures urgent messages are seen and responded to quickly.
In Wrike, you can also add comments directly to images, videos, and documents to provide contextual feedback. You can see your team’s progress on projects with live activity streams, project and team reporting, and workflows. This eliminates the need to ask what tasks have been completed and what still needs to be done.
- Includes a messaging system that displays chats directly in your workspace for easy access.
- Enables contextual feedback through comments on tasks.
- Provides clear updates on project status with reports and workflows.
Price: Free – $24.80 per user, per month | More Information
While email still has a role in the workplace, apps make for stronger communication between team members. The right app can take your business’s productivity and customer satisfaction to new heights by keeping your team focused on a common goal.
In this article, we’ve looked at some of the best company communication apps. Each has unique features to offer, including video chatting with Zoom, integrating client communications with Basecamp, or connecting different apps via Sameroom. You may even find it helpful to combine project management and communication in a single app, such as Asana or Wrike.