How to Write an Unreadable Web Article

I just tried to read the latest gotoreport and I gave up without even getting a quarter of the way through the first article. Why? Because it was unreadable!

I'm disappointed because the article titles looked interesting. However, I value my eyesight too much to risk struggling any further with them than the first couple of lines.

Light grey (#666) text on a white background? Small text-size that I can't resize? Dense blocks of text 10-15 lines long? What web readability guidelines did these inspired choices spring from?

And what's with that pull-quote over on the right hand side of the page? Visually, it seems to have no connection whatsoever with the main body of the content. Er, maybe you could put some quotes around it to at least give the reader a clue as to what it's supposed to be? I thought it related in some way to the content above it in the right column.

Once again it's a case of style trumps usability at the expense of the reader.

At least the article uses headings, thank goodness, and the length of the lines is about right. Interestingly, the easiest text for me to read is the author's bio, which stands out more because although it uses a smaller text-size, the blue text has more contrast.

Update: Okay, so maybe I was a bit harsh, as Keith recommended the "Want Free Beer?" article to me, proving that he was obviously able to read it and retain his eyesight (as he made it over to my desk without bumping into anything).

However, although presented in somewhat of a frustrated rant, I think my points still stand. Full disclosure: I liked the "beer" article too - I've been thinking about doing some 'guerilla' usability testing like this for a while, but had wondered whether it would be frowned upon. Obviously not.

Posted on: June 8, 2004 | No comments

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