Sometimes it’s nice to read an article without distractions. SitePoint’s design features links, forms and adverts but I personally think its layout offers good readability. Unfortunately, there are many sites that give the impression their advertising is more important than their actual content (I mention no names — they know who they are!)
Brooklyn-based web agency Arc90 describes the problem:
Reading anything on the Internet has become a full-on nightmare. As media outlets attempt to eke out as much advertising revenue as possible, we’re left trying to put blinders on to mask away all the insanity that surrounds the content we’re trying to read.
It’s almost like listening to talk radio, except the commercials play during the program in the background. It’s a pretty awful experience.
Fortunately, they have also produced a solution: Readability.
Readability is a browser bookmarklet that makes reading web pages simpler and more enjoyable. Those using small screens, such as netbooks, could benefit the most because the system strips the superfluous information and shows the main content in a single column of easy-to-read text.
To use it:
- Visit the Readability page.
- Choose your page style, text size, and column width (a preview is shown).
- Drag the Readability link to your toolbar.
You can now surf to any page and hit the Readability icon to extract and view the main text. It’s not perfect, but it works most on most websites — I find myself using it increasingly often.
As a side note, the bookmarklet also provides an interesting assessment of web page accessibility. Certain development techniques can cause content to disappear; if Readability doesn’t show the page text, it may be that screen readers or Google will have trouble accessing it too.
What do you think of Readability? Does it work on your favorite sites? Will you use it?
Craig is a freelance UK web consultant who built his first page for IE2.0 in 1995. Since that time he's been advocating standards, accessibility, and best-practice HTML5 techniques. He's created enterprise specifications, websites and online applications for companies and organisations including the UK Parliament, the European Parliament, the Department of Energy & Climate Change, Microsoft, and more. He's written more than 1,000 articles for SitePoint and you can find him @craigbuckler.