There has been some talk recently of just how ugly and careless some mainstream websites have become when it comes to readability and usability for their users. And with today being Black Friday, the online advertisers are in full, annoying swing.
Far too many sites are cramming advertisements and share buttons around their content making it an unpleasant experience for their readers. Some of us more savvy web readers may not notice this as much as we tend to use RSS readers and the like to stay away from the website we want to read.
But, the mass majority of people still go straight to sites to get their content. Rather than have their eyes raped by pop-over ads, crummy design, or ads in the middle of their content, web readers can use some of the following ways to clean up their web reading.
RSS is a great way to view content online as it strips out most advertisements and formats the text in a uniform way. Subscribing to RSS is a simple thing to do that involves finding a site’s RSS feed link (which is usually prominently displayed in a nice orange button on the site), copying it, and subscribing to it with your RSS reader.
The only real snafu with RSS is that some sites don’t offer a “full feed” for their site, meaning that you can only get a short excerpt of the story in the RSS feed, forcing you to click through to the site to finish the article.
We’ve looked at some of the best RSS readers recently. If you want to get started, here is a nice shortlist.
Easy Reading Services
While I am a heavy RSS user for the simplicity of having all of my favorite content in one place, for anything that is a longer read I use a web reading service called Instapaper. A service like Instapaper allows the user to “queue-up” articles for later reading and clears out ads and bad text formatting giving the reader a great way to read their content.
To use Instapaper you can sign up for an account and use their nice “Read Later” bookmarklet that allows you to send the current article in your browser to your Instapaper queue. You can then login to Instapaper or use the iPhone app to read your content in peace.
Instapaper isn’t the only service like this. There are some others that you may want to check out inluding:
- Reading List and Reader (iOS, Mac)
- Readability (iOS, Mac, Windows, Web, Android)
- Read It Later (iOS, Android, Web)
I personally can’t live without a service like Instapaper. It saves me so much time and frustration when it comes to online reading. If you haven’t tried it yet, I can’t recommend it enough.
Another way to clean up your reading experience on the web is to just stop reading content from the sites that don’t offer a full RSS feed and don’t cater to a good user experience on the site.
There are many sites in the past that I have dumped because of poor reading experience and no full RSS feed. What I have found is that these types of sites’ content was going down the toilet anyways. It’s funny how sites that don’t make it easy for the reader to consume their content because of enforcement of ads and click-throughs tend to have content that isn’t the best.
Instead of “putting up” with a bad reading experience you may just want to give up on the site entirely.
A word on ad blocking
Some of you out there may be saying, “what about ad blocking? That will clean up your reading experience!” While this is true and I have used ad blocking in the past, I have to say that blocking ads from your favorite sites can be a bad thing.
If I enjoy the content on a site and their ads aren’t overly intrusive to my reading experience, then the site will get my attention to its content and ads giving the site some revenue from advertisers. If they have overly intrusive ads, chances are I’m not reading the site’s content anyways so no need to block something I don’t visit.
In other words, if the site uses intrusive advertisement you probably won’t read the content from the site in the first place. As long as the site allows its readers access to a full RSS feed and doesn’t kill them with ads I don’t see a use for ad blockers. And anyways, advertisements on your favorite sites are the means that help keep the site there for your enjoyment.
Cleaning up your web reading experience isn’t a hard thing to do. Hopefully in the next few months and years, web content creators get the idea that readers come to their sites for content, not like buttons and flash advertisements, and find new ways to help monetize their content. As long as online content creators allow their users to consume content the ways they want to, a lot of these issues go by the way side.