Mayday Post

this may or may not be a design blog

Reading on the Web

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If you are the type of person who doesn’t like reading on web, then you’ll be happy to hear that designer Mandy Brown has heard your plight. Brown believes that the key to happy readers lies not so much in the quality of content, but in the design of the content.  A certain amount of “noise” must accompany online reading. For longer articles and text, however, Brown thinks that designers should eliminate distraction and emulate the uninterrupted qualities of print-on-page. In her article “By design,” she writes:

By design, a text makes a statement as to how it should be read – or if it should be read at all. We’ve all heard – and may have said ourselves – that much text on the web isn’t read, that users will look at the headings and the navigation and (maybe) the pictures, but they’ll skip right over that block of text in the middle of the page. And we’re right – they probably will – because the text has been designed to be skipped over.

Throw a bunch of text into a block with no attention to line length or leading, or the volume and voice with which the text should speak, and it will repulse even the most dedicated of readers. It’s the equivalent of asking a small child to walk into a room of crowded adults, head straight into a corner, and meekly whisper into the wall. Do not be surprised when no one notices her.”

Brown has a point. And it’s particularly refreshing to see her ideas put into action (her website, A Working Library, is awash in white space).   I highly recommended checking it out.

I certainly agree with the idea that designers are largely responsible for how people will read content on the web. But I’m hesitant to completely agree with Brown’s prescription of simple and straightforward presentation of text.  Designers should definitely be able to play with reader a bit. Let’s not take all fun out of reading!

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Written by beckyquintal

March 10, 2009 at 10:27 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

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