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