Saturday, August 11, 2012

Readability: Further improving your online reading experience

A while back I wrote a blog entry about how to overcome the lack of contrast and poor readability of many websites, even those that exist to provide content to be read online.

In that post I talked about some browser plugins (for Chrome and Firefox) where you can override those settings. In general these have improved my online reading experience, but they don't always work. There is also the problem of formatting. Some content sites clutter their web pages with too many advertisements, inserts and whirligigs so as to make reading downright unpleasant, even if they have good contrast for reading.

Case in point:

Or even worse from the same website:

This last one is so bad that I broke out my ruler: on my screen using Firefox, the text has occupies 29.167% of the screen width.

Maybe some people like that. It is reminiscent of an extremely busy old tyme newspaper layout.

If, like me, you don't like that style, then I have a suggestion: try You sign up for a free account and install it as a browser plugin. It adds some buttons to your toolbar - I usually hate anything that does that, but in this case I've made an exception.

When you get to a page where you want to read the content, just click the "Read Now" button. It will extract just the content, including images that are part of the content, format it into a nice readable layout, copy it to their servers, generate a URL and redirect you to that URL. You can also choose between 5 themes. I picked the "inverse" theme which gives a dark background with light text. Here is that second article above using the "inverse" theme:

That contrast is still a little too faint for my taste - they should get some advice from Contrast Rebellion. So I go one further and use No Squint on firefox or or Change Colors on Chrome to make it an even darker background and lighter text:

One shortcoming: readability can't extract multipage articles, but you can choose the "print all" button on the website if they offer it and then press "Read Now".

Readability also offers a "Read Later" option. Click that puts the article on your reading list. You can also use Readability on Kindle, tablets and smart phones.

I'm sure there are many other services that do something similar. I haven't researched them since I've found Readability + No Squint (Firefox) or Change Colors (Chrome) works for me, but if you have one you like even better, let me know.

No comments:

Post a Comment