One sign of a neophyte Web designer or developer is a tendency to center text, controls, and other elements on the page. It may be because HTML and Website layout tools make centering easy, and some Web designers haven't yet learned that centering is usually a bad idea.
Prose text written in a left-to-right language such as English
is harder to read when centered than when left-aligned. The reason has to do with the way our
eyes are trained to scan back and
forth over lines of text. When lines don't start in the same horizontal
position, reading is disrupted. See what I mean?
Despite the difficulty of reading centered text, many websites display large blocks of centered prose. See, for example, a legal disclaimer at VitaminShoppe.com.
Bulleted text suffers from centering more than prose text does. Bullets are supposed to mark list-items. Centering bulleted items "buries" the bullets, effectively neutralizing them. It requires slow, laborious zigzag eye movements.
Nonetheless, it is easy to find centered bullets on the Web. The New Hampshire Association of School Principles website has an example: not only is their mission statement centered, the bulleted list of links is too.
Our Grande Finale example of centering comes from the package-tracking page of ValcoElectronics.com. This page centers everything: prose text, controls, and links.
The basic rule on centering is: Don't. If you need more detail, here are additional rules: