Designing for usability readability, or are they the samething?
Having to spend all day in front of a computer screen, mostly on the web with not the best eyesight in the world made me realise 2 things. Firstly I should get my eyes tested and secondly more websites should be designed with users in mind.
Readability is a service that promises to help you “Read Comfortably - Anytime, Anywhere.” Safari 5 implemented the readability technology, allowing users to read long form paginated articles without the wild distraction of advertising. Personally I send long form articles to Instapaper and read them there. Something is broken in the way the web is designed if we have to use secondary services to read the content of the sites we visit.
What we are not stuck with is small typefaces, bad contrast and pagination.
The web possibly is already the de-facto publishing standard for news views and entertainment, let alone training and learning. This means we actually read what is published on the internet, the good and the bad. Computer screens to start with are hard work for your eyes so its a less than ideal medium to work with, but until we get super high resolution, and vector based user interfaces we are stuck with bad screens. What we are not stuck with is small typefaces, bad contrast and pagination.
It might be the case that you are interested in cramming more and more weight loss ads onto the screen to generate revenue from your blog. I’m not interested in your content, your site or your opinions. You probably just brought to article from a content farm and it was written in 5 minutes by someone who doesn’t have a clue but can paraphrase wikipedia quickly. If this isn’t you, those are the assumptions I’m making about a site with ads plastered all over it. If I have no other choice but to read your content, I’ll send it to Instapaper so I can read it in peace.
If you are taking the time and effort to produce good content, don’t do yourself a disservice by hiding it in a small font. Make it easy for users to consume the content that you put time into creating. Imagine we are in a shop, a small independent local retailer, you can go into this shop discuss the weather, ask questions about the products, get helpful expert advice for free. Not only is the shop good, well stocked, friendly and helpful it’s also convenient. Only when ever you get to the checkout your items are put in a bag and placed on a high shelf, and the shop keeper makes you reach up and get them down before leaving. You wouldn’t go back to often would you? Now buy using a small font, or pagination, or only extracts in your RSS feeds you are putting the content on a high shelf and making people reach up for it.
Only when ever you get to the checkout your items are put in a bag and placed on a high shelf, and the shop keeper makes you reach up and get them down before leaving.
Bad metaphors aside how easy is it to just bump up the text size? 12pt text is what we are comfortable reading in books and magazines, but as the computer screen is further away use 16pt text is the natural size. Its easy to set your CSS to 100%, and the browser takes care of the rest. There is a reason that the browsers default font size is that big. Essentially I’m trying to get across is that it’s down to using good typography on a site. Fortunately for the non-typographers, good typography is based on a set of rules. Rules are good, you can follow them and make your site looks good and reads well.
A good starting point are these two articles by Information Architects, a design agency in Japan. They are far more eloquent and convincing than me in the arguments for good typography. The ultimate learning resource however is Webtypography.net which covers all aspects of good typography on the web.