How to use letter casing in user experience design6 min read
So you’ve just designed your latest product, the front-end has been implemented, the animations tested, and everything is ready to ship. Looking over your design for the final time, proud of your finished work, you notice that some titles have capitals on every single word, while others, just at the beginning of the sentence. Eh, no big deal, right?
If you’re writing copy for a digital product, be it an app or a website, plenty of UX mistakes can be very easily avoided, if you stay consistent with your letter casing. And in order to do that, you should ask yourself:
Who am I building this product for?
We’ll get to research in a moment but first let’s go through the different types of caps.
Loved by Apple, title case is the one where the first letter of each word is capitalised. It’s mostly used in newspapers, academic publications, press releases and books.
It Looks Old and Serious.
It carries a certain ‘gravitas’ and is generally regarded as the more traditional approach to casing. Title casing appeals to an older demographic and is naturally emphasised, symmetrical, and formal, in order to guide the user to the important parts of the page.
Ok, Cool, So How do I Use It?
Primarily on short titles as a focal point leading to the paragraph below it. It’s perfect for titles and sub-titles, as long as it helps establish a hierarchy.
You should also keep in mind the user group you’re targeting. A younger crowd wouldn’t really appreciate all the times you pressed ‘SHIFT” while writing the title. Industries like insurance, accounting, law, and other more traditional ones, are the best place to use title case. Some companies also use title case in their design systems.
Any Other Tips You Could Share?
Consistency is really hard when using title case because everyone uses it differently. So, if you’re not working alone in your basement, you need to establish concrete rules on title case implementation or it’ll be a major pain in the ass to coordinate between different people and teams.
Got it! But Isn’t It Hard to Read?
Not really. There is some evidence that points to title case being a bit slower to read but that can be helpful, if you don’t want your titles to be quickly skimmed through. Also, keep in mind that this casing makes it really hard to differentiate proper nouns from regular ones.
This one is with title caps
The Villain Was Caught By Shaggy And Scooby.
and this one is with mixed caps
The villain was caught by Shaggy and Scooby.
Used by everyone, everywhere, sentence case is where you capitalise only the first letter of the first word of a sentence.
So, it’s easier to read, natural, more casual, and modern?
Yes, kind of boring, but also easier on the eyes. People rarely read everything in long rows of text. That’s where the innate readability of the sentence case helps. By letting the user skim through your text, you can get a bit more information from that particular title.
Also, it’s really easy to coordinate between people and teams because there’s only a single way to implement it.
Sounds nice! Where should I use it?
Mostly on product text targeted at the younger, techier audience because that’s what they prefer. Sentence case is more human and friendly. It also helps differentiate proper nouns like names from the rest of the words in a sentence.
Wow, it sounds perfect!
Well, it isn’t. It can blend really easily a title into the text below it, if you’re not careful. Usually, you’d want your readers to start with the title, so be careful how you style it when using sentence case. Also, being casual isn’t always what you’re looking for, so do your homework before implementing it everywhere.
ALL CAPS IS USUALLY IDENTIFIED AS SHOUTING! Humanity’s preference for sentence case has made us slower readers of all caps. The first alphabets ever created were all capitals, and non-capital letters were later made to be easier to read.
I WANT TO TRY THEM! HOW DO I DO THAT?
Very, very conservatively.
They are great in logos, creating a bold, authoritative, and aggressive brand identity. All capitals are also good for making specific UI elements stand out while also reducing error rates among users. An optimal use would also be in UI labels like tabs and captions that are shorter than one line.
Are you confused yet?
Just make sure you thoroughly research your target users, the field for which you’ll be designing, and it’s best typographical practices. No letter casing is the best, nor the worst. They all have their use cases and it’s up to you as a designer to determine the correct casing.
And don’t forget about consistency.