It can be hard to concentrate on anything these days, especially online. Right now I have seven tabs open – which is a pretty slow day. When you read articles, say, on the New York Times website, there are constantly sidebars and popups urging you to read some other article instead – not to mention the ads. So I was thrilled to discover Readability, a free app that lets you get rid of all that noise and display articles in a way that’s comfortable for you to read.
With Readability, you just click a bookmark on your toolbar to see a stripped-down version of the article you want to read. You can adjust the text and background color (I like white letters on charcoal, which theoretically reduces glare), the size, and the width of the columns. You can also save articles to read later on your computer or a mobile device. I learned about Readability from a colleague with low vision, but I think it’s a useful tool for most people, particularly those who, like me, just want to focus on reading one article at a time.
There are two major problems with Readability: one, it doesn’t always display pictures. I’m not sure what’s going on in the code that determines whether pictures will or will not display, and I haven’t conducted any rigorous testing. (My testing so far: verifying that it does display the images on Smitten Kitchen.) But you can always try it, and if you find that a particular article is missing pictures you want to see, you can just go back to viewing it the old-fashioned way.
The second problem is that not all pages display correctly. This seems to be a web design issue. I suspect that websites that adhere to the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (and best practice in general) are the ones that are displaying correctly, while sites that use things like frames do not, but that’s just a guess. However, I haven’t run into too many problems with it, and I think we can safely expect it to get even better over time.