You might use a “reader view” when surfing the web—you may even be using one right now. (If you don’t use one, get ready to have your socks blown clear off.) Reader views not only show a stripped and simplified version of a webpage, but they also show us that bad web design is alive and well.
Have you ever wanted to read an article on a website but the font is too small? Or maybe an annoying popup gets in the way of the text? Even slow-loading pages can make you frustrated while you wait for banner ads, videos, and graphics to finish rendering.
A reader view solves this. Every major web browser (and even many smaller ones) has an option for the user to strip a webpage of everything but the headline, text, and images or videos that pertain to the article.
And nothing else. Just large, easy-to-read black text floating in a white, purgatory-like space where no distractions can get in the way of you and your reading. It’s blissful. It’s effective. It’s truly magical.
Reader view isn’t new. Safari introduced their reader view back in 2010 (some simple-text apps even predate this). Microsoft developed a simple reading option in 2013 for Internet Explorer, then again in 2015 for Microsoft Edge—the same year Firefox introduced their version.
Google Chrome had an experimental reader view in 2015, and now have a more robust add-on in the works (though only for Andriod OS at the moment).
Some browsers even let you customize your reading view with different typefaces, font sizes and colors (like white text on a black background for easy-on-the-eyes night reading).
And while some webpages don’t allow using a reader view, it works on most news articles, blog and product pages to make reading distraction-free.
The growing use of reader views shows that web users (and browser developers) know that simple, straightforward design is preferred. The people want what they came for and not everything that gets in the way, like:
When more and more web browsers are adding features to declutter webpages, the blame falls on bad website designers, developers and advertisers. Trying to create something noticeable and wanting to make money often overtake one of the golden rules of the web—design for the user.
When users opt for reader view on your site, they end up not seeing your branding, your navigation links and other elements that move them toward a purchase.
Want to avoid users gravitating to the reader view button when they land on your website? Here are a few tips:
1. Design your website well. Great sites aren’t flashy—they’re easy. Hire someone to develop your site to make words readable, colors compatible and layouts simple and appealing.
Medium’s website is awesomely simple. You’d almost think it was already in reader view.
2. Increase your loading speeds. Your website should load in a second or two—any longer and users get impatient and click away. Remove unnecessary videos, decrease your image file sizes and ditch banner ads if they add too much time for your site to load. Google has a neat tool for measuring page speed.
3. Quit adding things. One of the biggest rules of design is that every element must have a purpose. Don’t add an image if it doesn’t help the user. Don’t include a sidebar if your page can do without it. Keep colors simple and useful.
4. Work for the user, not yourself. All businesses want to make money, but that doesn’t mean you should let sales overtake user experience. If you make your site a place where people can get the info they came for (which doesn’t include a popup asking for their email or to purchase an additional product), they’re likely to stay on the site longer and may give you more business.
If you follow these rules and make it easier for customers to use your website, they’ll be more inclined to use your actual site instead of a “reader view” version.