I have vehement feelings about web design, especially since I read a lot of articles online. The overall principle is that simplicity trumps everything. Well, everything except functionality. I wanna be able to frickin’ do whatever I’m trying to do on the website!
Usually all I’m trying to do is read something. However, most online publishers don’t prioritize my ability to process the content they post. I find this astounding. Don’t they want me to derive value from their sites and feel motivated to return? Apparently not. It’s baffling.
Here is my rubric for judging a website:
- Large font. Like, 16-point Times New Roman or larger. (Unfortunately, text is almost never big enough. Luckily I can fix the problem with Ctrl+.)
- Black-on-white text. Any other combination is less readable. Pale grey text, even on a white background, is especially obnoxious.
- Minimal visual clutter. Adblocking is a phenomenal help, but I do feel guilty about using it on websites that I want to support.
According to these rules, The Awl is a good website, but not a perfect one. Its sister site The Hairpin sucks. Medium is even better than The Awl. (I considered taking screenshots to document the websites’ current forms, but on the other hand, whatever.) The rest of the internet publishers range from “mediocre” to “I can’t believe this is a professional endeavor; shoot me”.
AND YET! THERE IS HOPE. I recently started using a service called Instapaper, which Ryan Holiday suggested in one of his articles. Instapaper exists as a website, Chrome extension, and phone app. The service enables you to save articles to read later and has an adaptable interface similar to the Kindle app. In their own words, “Instapaper is the simplest way to save and store articles for reading: offline, on-the-go, anytime, anywhere, perfectly formatted.” Usually a brand’s self-description is hyperbole, but not in this case. Instapaper is right on the money.
But wait, are they? Without running tons of ads, how can Instapaper be financially sustainable? The answer is Instapaper Premium, an upgrade that costs $29.99 per year, which I just bought. I don’t even want the expanded features, although I may use them now that I have them. What I want is to support technologies that make my life — in this case my media consumption — better.
Curious about the articles that I’ve been queueing up? Check out my Instapaper profile.