Monday, June 13, 2011

A case for readability

With no Gmail, Facebook in office and work pretty much over, I spent a large portion of time reading online news and articles. Readability or the ease of reading is an issue we hardly consider while reading physical books or news papers. But web pages contain several other things than the main article - adds, links to other articles etc. So readability becomes an important issue while reading web text. I am a big fan of the plugin Readability. Unfortunately it doesn't work in my office network. So I had to find other means to make articles more presentable to myself. One of the biggest feeder of articles for me is Indian Express. I am producing a few snapshots of Indian Express articles here for showcasing various layouts.

Multi page format.
Negatives: Distractions on right side and the pain of clicking  "next page link"
Positives: Lesser text to read at once

Single Page Layout
Negatives: Scrolling
Positives: No extra clicks required. Easy to skim backwards in the article. 
But the layout which I prefer is the print preview. It is provided by many standard content rich sites. Unfortunately it's use is still not widespread. I hope someday it becomes a norm.
Print Layout
Negatives: Extra width. Possibility of loss of concentration after mid length
Positives: No adds. Flickering, Flash adds often distract from reading. Entire article presented in one single view
One of the interesting features of Readability is the conversion of links embedded in the article into footnotes. Many times writers use the contents of the external article as stepping stones or examples to substantiate their point. So providing reference links is a natural action for writers.But while reading a long article embedded links most often disrupt the flow of reading. So from a reader's perspective these hyperlinks may not be a good idea.  It's a bit of writer-reader conundrum. That's where readability comes handy. 

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