Better Web Reading

It’s damn hard to read web con­tent some­times. Too-small text, arti­cles split over mul­ti­ple pages, gra­tu­itous ban­ner ads, design that steals you atten­tion from the actual con­tent: these all con­spire to make read­ing on the web—especially long-form content—frustrating, painful and some­times down­right infu­ri­at­ing. 2010 saw two major approaches to this come to some degree of promi­nence, and both have made me so much happier.


The first approach makes in-browser read­ing bet­ter through the Read­abil­ity book­marklet. It strips away every­thing except the text you’d like to read, sized and for­mat­ted appro­pri­ately for on-screen read­ing. Safari incor­po­rated Read­abil­ity tech­nol­ogy in its Reader func­tion­al­ity in Safari 5, bring­ing bet­ter read­ing to folks who have no idea what a book­marklet is. What I espe­cially love about Safari Reader is that it does a good job of string­ing a multi-page arti­cle into a sin­gle page.

Read it Later

The sec­ond approach is using a third party ser­vice like Instapa­per (which I use and love) or Read it Later to extract the main con­tent from a web page and read it later on a vari­ety of a devices. Both have iOS apps that sync with the ser­vice to give you the con­tent you’d like to read, even offline. This is a vast improve­ment over the old “I’ll leave this tab open and come back to it later” approach that rarely, if ever, worked in practice.

Both of these trends in web reading—especially the first—demonstrate that peo­ple are no longer putting up with design that dis­re­spects con­tent. They want design that puts con­tent first, like The Eru­dite, which has been down­loaded 92,832 times as of this writ­ing. Hope­fully we’ll see less need for Read­abil­ity as web design­ers start mak­ing actu­ally read­able sites.

One Comment

  1. Posted January 31, 2011 at 11:39 am | Permalink

    I love Instapa­per. Some­times I even book­mark some­thing I’m cur­rently read­ing on it just so I can go read it on Instapa­per instead. Much easier.

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  1. By Better Web Reading » on January 3, 2011 at 12:27 pm