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Monday, July 29, 2013

5 Ways To Make Websites Easier To Read

5 Ways To Make Websites Easier To Read
With the amount of information on the Internet—news, stories, tutorials, encyclopaediae—it’s hard to ever stop reading. What usually gets you in the end is impracticality. A need to switch devices or to go offline, but also the inability to read it now and a lack of commitment to read it later.
Reading websites can be bliss, but it isn’t always comfortable. Noisy webpages assail your eyes and after a while, the almighty LCD takes its toll. With impending eye-strain causing a drop in productivity, it’s time to call it a day.
If you’re hungry to read (as I am), there are ways to get rid (or at least partly circumvent) these impracticalities. Other tips and tools also help to make reading more comfortable. With these in your toolbox, you’re able to make reading about reading again.

Invert Colours (for Nightly Reading)

Late at night, or in a dimly lit room, a glaring LCD screen wearies the eyes and can give you a killer headache. The black text on a white background works well in most general situations, but if you’re reading in bad lighting, you should try inverting the webpage colours for easier reading. Your eyes will thank you for it.
Firefox users should take a look at Blank Your Screen + Easy Reading. This add-on lets you invert the colours on a webpage by clicking the status bar icon or using a key combination (Ctrl + Alt + B). You can change the colour palette in the preferences if you prefer e.g. white on green over white on black.
Google Chrome users can use Google’s official accessibility extension: High Contrast. Similar to the Firefox add-on, you can toggle inverting the colours using the extension button or a keyboard shortcut (Cmd + Shift + F11). A big advantage of this extension is that you can change the preferred colour scheme for each individual website. This way, you don’t have to toggle the colours every time you visit a rare website that already offers a night reading mode.

Save Pages For Delayed Reading

Sometimes you encounter an interesting page, app or article when you don’t have the time to fully check it out. Maybe you’re late for work. Maybe you’re at work. In either case, it can be useful to save an article for later reading.
Pocket saves you the trouble of remembering or writing down these web pages. Just create an account and install the browser extension or bookmarklet. Pressing the icon saves (or “pockets”) the article for later reading. Because this list of delayed articles is linked to your account, the pages you save from different devices are all gathered in one convenient place.
You can access these articles from your reading list via the Pocket website or using thePocket for Mac application. Cleaned of all clutter, reading these articles with Pocket is even more fun than usual. (More on removing clutter below).
To read on your other devices, get the free mobile apps for (deep breath) iPhone/iPad, Android, Kindle Fire, Windows Mobile, Blackberry, WebOS and s60. A number of other apps, like the popular Flipboard, integrate with Pocket as well. In summary: don’t expect much compatibility issues.

Send To Kindle

Although Pocket integrates well with a lot of devices, including the Kindle Fire, it doesn’t play well with eReaders. You can use another browser extension to bridge that particular gap. The official Send To Kindle extensions have you covered. These tie in to browsers like Chrome (pictured below) and Firefox, but you can also download desktop applications for Mac andWindows and push local files to your eReader.
You can choose whether to send the current web page to your Kindle, or to preview it first. The add-on removes all the unnecessary clutter, sidebars and buttons alike, and presents it for your approval. You can change the title and author of the article and tinker with the formatting if you’d like. However, in my experience the Send to Kindle extension does a good job on its own.
It might seem a bit much to add another extension to your browser for one device. However, it all depends on how extensively you use your eReader. Personally, I use Send to Kindle about as much as I use Pocket. Especially for longer reads an eReader can be preferable to a tablet.

Download The Entire Web Page

If you use a single device, or have an easy way of transferring the files, you can also save the entire webpage to your computer. Using your browser’s File -> Save As feature, you can save the current page to a folder on your computer. This has the benefit of providing offline access while retaining the original formatting.
If a single page does not suffice, read Justin Pot’s instructions on downloading an entire website (or selection thereof) for offline reading.
If you don’t need to keep the web page in web page form, it might be a better idea to download it as a PDF file. Depending on the website, the result can look magnificent or horrendous, but in either case it’s easy to transfer and use on other devices.
The easiest way to create a PDF is by printing to an application (instead of a hardware printer) that creates the PDF. This feature is standard included on Mac OS X. Users of other operating systems can install a third-party tool like CutePDF (Windows) or CUPS-PDF (Linux). If you are using Chrome, you can use the Save as PDF option.

Declutter Pages with Readability

Most websites (including this one) have headers, sidebars and a whole lot of buttons that are useful while navigating, but only serve to distract you while you’re trying to read a longer article. A browser extension like Readability strips most of the article except title, pictures, and text to create a cleaner and much easier to read article, as demonstrated in the screenshot below.
These decluttered articles are similar to the pages you’ll read using Pocket or sent to Kindle, both discussed in detail above, but now available to read on the spot.
Actually, Readability also supports delayed reading and sending articles to Kindle (although it doesn’t match up to these other tools in all regards). However, if you prefer a one size fits all solution, you should also check out Readability to handle these respective jobs.
What do you use to make websites easier and more pleasant to read? Do you have any tips for your fellow reader? Add your voice in the comments section below!

Simon Slangen

I'm a writer and computer sciences student from Belgium. You can always do me a favor with a good article idea, book recommendation, or recipe idea. You'll also find me onFacebookTwitter and Google+.