Readability

2 min read

Back in 2006, Information Architects wrote a seminal post on The 100% Easy-2-Read Standard.

Most websites are crammed with small text that’s a pain to read. Why?

 

They proposed 5 rules for readability:

  1. Standard font size for long texts
  2. Active white space
  3. Reader friendly line height
  4. Clear color contrast
  5. No text in images

 

Stop Waiting for Web Designers: Enforce the rules yourself.

Although few sites adopted their recommendations, just over the past year, there has been a spurt in user side solutions to improving readability.

These typically work by figuring out which section (ie division) on a page has the content, hiding the rest of the page then overwriting the style sheet to something more user friendly.

I recommend that you have at least one of these bookmarklets if you do any amount of reading online:

Generally they all work well. At times, however, the wrong section is singled out and the real content disappears with the re-styling.

All three use essentially the same code so no one tool outperforms the others in this respect. When one bookmarklet hides the content, they all tend to.

But fear not! In the rare event your trusty bookmarklet cannot clean a page for you, there’s one more tool in the bag…

 

Get out the machete

In the few cases your bookmarklet doesn’t work, it is still possible to to improve readability IF you are running Firefox:

  1. Install the Aardvark Extension
  2. Isolate the content (run Aardvark and hit “I”)
  3. Increase the font size as necessary (Control and +).

This is pretty much like taking a knife to the page yourself and has a strange feeling of satisfaction to it.

 

One last hack:
One Page Reading

Some websites have the annoying habit of presenting an article over a number of pages without providing a “Single Page” or “Printable Page” view option.

Both AutoPager and PageZipper are Firefox extensions which automatically load the contents of “next page” links underneath the current page so you can scroll instead of clicking through an article.

PageZipper is the newer of the two and has a number of teething problems. For now I’m sticking with AutoPager for this job.