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.