Paul Kemner en beBee in English Database Admin • Liebherr Aerospace 2/11/2016 · 1 min de lectura · 1,6K

How the Web Became Unreadable (link)

How the Web Became Unreadable (link)I thought my eyesight was beginning to go. It turns out, I’m suffering from design.

by Kevin Marks. 

It’s been getting harder for me to read things on my phone and my laptop. I’ve caught myself squinting and holding the screen closer to my face. I’ve worried that my eyesight is starting to go.

These hurdles have made me grumpier over time, but what pushed me over the edge was when Google’s App Engine console — a page that, as a developer, I use daily — changed its text from legible to illegible. Text that was once crisp and dark was suddenly lightened to a pallid gray. Though age has indeed taken its toll on my eyesight, it turns out that I was suffering from a design trend.

There’s a widespread movement in design circles to reduce the contrast between text and background, making type harder to read. Apple is guilty. Google is, too. So is Twitter.

Typography may not seem like a crucial design element, but it is. One of the reasons the web has become the default way that we access information is that it makes that information broadly available to everyone. “The power of the Web is in its universality,” wrote Tim Berners-Lee, director of the World Wide Web consortium. “Access by everyone regardless of disability is an essential aspect.”

But if the web is relayed through text that’s difficult to read, it curtails that open access by excluding large swaths of people, such as the elderly, the visually impaired, or those retrieving websites through low-quality screens. And, as we rely on computers not only to retrieve information but also to access and build services that are crucial to our lives, making sure that everyone can see what’s happening becomes increasingly important.

We should be able to build a baseline structure of text in a way that works for most users, regardless of their eyesight. So, as a physicist by training, I started looking for something measurable.

How the Web Became Unreadable (link)


How the Web Became Unreadable (link)

It wasn’t hard to isolate the biggest obstacle to legible text: contrast, the difference between the foreground and background colors on a page. In 2008, the Web Accessibility Initiative, a group that works to produce guidelines for web developers, introduced a widely accepted ratio for creating easy-to-read webpages.

To translate contrast, it uses a numerical model. If the text and background of a website are the same color, the ratio is 1:1. For black text on white background (or vice versa), the ratio is 21:1. The Initiative set 4.5:1 as the minimum ratio for clear type, while recommending a contrast of at least 7:1, to aid readers with impaired vision. The recommendation was designed as a suggested minimum contrast to designate the boundaries of legibility. Still, designers tend to treat it as as a starting point.

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Praveen Raj Gullepalli 3/11/2016 · #12

Food for thought Paul! There has got to be some price to pay for keeping eyes glued to the PC monitor/ Laptop or phone screen all day! ;) A couple of hours on the phone and I find my vision going blurry. Typos time - if I still persevere! In the older days monitor calibration helped set the right screen levels and just twiddling the contrast helped ease the eye-strain. Also, I have noticed that many use very low screen brightness to save battery.

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Phil Friedman 3/11/2016 · #11

#8 Good suggestion, Paul. I use Firefox (for everything except publishing on LinkedIn) and really like it. Especially the ability to integrate add-ons. For example, I've added a free version of Grammarly to Firefox, and it now runs as an overlay on just about every internet-based application that I use via Firefox. And is a great convenience for spelling and grammar checking on the go.

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Paul Kemner 3/11/2016 · #10

#3 It's amazing that the "low-contrast and light fonts for readability" assertion doesn't seem to be based on any experimental evidence.

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Paul Kemner 3/11/2016 · #9

I just tried iReader on Firefox, and it seems pretty useful for articles. You can change typeface, size, and background color. It seems to leave the main images intact, too.
If anyone finds equivalents for other browsers, let me know! :D

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Paul Kemner 3/11/2016 · #8

There used to be some browser plug-ins and extensions that you could use to improve the readability of webpages and remove distractions, and some may still be current. iReader and Enjoy Reading for Firefox, for instance. With some browsers you can turn on a "reader mode", so it's worth checking out possibilities for whatever you use.

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Richard Buse 2/11/2016 · #7

Thanks for sharing this. My vision is not what it once was, so I would appreciate greater emphasis on legibility. Those who tout their UX expertise need to be thinking about this.

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Chris Dixon 2/11/2016 · #6

As I endure later-life, why-can't-I-CLEP-this college 101 purgatory, this article brought to mind certain aspects which, apparently, too many of today's web designers take for granted. One example is how it seems the "alt" image tag description commonly used for the benefit of those who rely on OCR and other web adaptive technologies, has fallen out of favor. Folks, when was the last time you hovered over an image and saw text that explained what the nature of that image was? Now, imagine that you were blind. When images lack text captions or descriptions, that lack can create one heck of a contextual void for those without sight.

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