Wednesday, 21 March 2018

Information and commentary for the small business banking industry

Online readability: Are you chasing Internet traffic to your opposition?

03 Apr

Is readability still a major problem on the Internet? The answer is “YES”.

By readability, I don’t only mean the readability of the content but include other associated factors that affect readability online. The Oxford English Dictionary defines readability as something that is easy, interesting and enjoyable to read. The definition highlights three important keywords:

  • Easy
  • Interesting
  • Enjoyable.

Let’ look at each of these qualities from a web development point of view.


By easy, I mean the ease with which content can be read. Web page design is something that affects the readability of the content. We all know the important roles that font and color play in readability. But there are other things to consider such as content layout, User Interface (UI) controls, and annoying links.

Large blocks of dense text intimidate the reader and cause information overload.

Look at the above two images. A reader will lose interest half way through the first page. The second page, on the other hand, has less information, is clearer and easy to read and engages the user more easily.

Nowadays, most websites have ad-based revenue models. These adverts are presented in ad slots as gif images, or in pop-ups as flash images, etc. They appear when the page is loaded or when a user’s mouse moves over a certain section of the page. These fancy ads annoy the user because they have to take action to close the advert, or because ads pop up at regular intervals, slowing their access to the information they’re looking for – until annoyance eventually drives the user to close the page. Sites with this revenue model need to come up with better design by creating slots for ads in places where they won’t affect readability.

Another factor that affects readability is the controls used to present the information. Annoying tooltips, modal pop-ups, JavaScript alerts, and confirm boxes should be avoided. These controls are far less attractive to the eyes and irritate the user. Simple design with basic controls increases readability as people are used to traditional, simple designs that they understand.

Interesting and Enjoyable

These two qualities go hand in hand. To some extent, they rely on content but the way information is presented on the screen also drives these qualities. Tablets and e-readers are successful because of the way information is presented. Reading books on Kindle, for example, feels like reading a physical book. This goes back to my previous point that traditional designs are easy to understand, and people enjoy traditional designs in new formats. Hence, basic content layout styles keep the reader on the page.


To make a good website, we don’t need colorful images, fancy styles and pop-ups. A simple design that is neatly presented with easy-to-read information and less redirectional links drives traffic. I go with the saying “Old is gold”. Traditional styles need to be preserved and followed, with some tweaks when necessary.

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