Notes from underground

يارب يسوع المسيح ابن اللّه الحيّ إرحمني أنا الخاطئ

The illegibility of WordPress

Whose idea was it to fill WordPress blogs with illegible fonts?

I recently wrote a comment in another blog, and the first line of my comment was this:

The Facebook world is very much a Web 1.0 world.

but all I could see of it was this:

Th     l  l    ll i   i  mu h i   l       i l l.

The vertical strokes in the letters are visible, horizontal strokes are faint, and diagonal strokes fainter still, so that in a word like “Facebook” all one can see are the vertical strokes of the b and the k, which make the word look like ”    l  l”.

The blog post in question was Church in a Facebook World | Liturgy, where the blog says that it is “Powered by Headway, the drag and drop WordPress theme”, but most of WordPress’s public and help pages seem to be written in the same barely legible font. The list of Categories in the right column where I am writing this are in the same illegible font.

I really couldn’t be bothered to read most of the comments on that blog, because peering at the screen trying to work out what the words are leaves one so exhausted that it isn’t worth bothering to think of what those words are trying to say.

These are not the Dead Sea Scrolls or some other ancient documents that have to be deciphered after being exposed to the vagaries of the climate, insects and other hazards for thousands of years. Why make text on a computer screen look like a badly-fixed paper photograph that has been left out in the sun?

You can surely devise fonts with a face and colour that contrasts enough with the background to make them legible. So why do the people at WordPress seem to go out of their way to make them hard to read? Are they trying to kill blogging?


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11 thoughts on “The illegibility of WordPress

  1. Hi Steve!
    Weird, I don’t get the problem you have. I can see everything on WordPress, including the blog post and comments on it you refer to, clearly. There isn’t some other issue on your machine perhaps?

  2. I’m mystified by this since all the fonts look just fine to me. I wonder if it’s one that you don’t have installed?

    • Text in posts and comments with this “theme” are fine, and I can read them. But those in other blogs, and in the compose window of this one, are difficult to read.

  3. Here is an example of the kind of font I am talking about. It looked like an interesting article, but I couldn’t read any of it, except for the pictures. The text might as well have been Thai or Chinesse. The contrast between text and background has been reduced to a minimum, and the font does not have enough “body”. Revealing the Contents of a 100-year-old Time Capsule — TwistedSifter

  4. That looks totally fine to me. It’s grey on a white background and the font looks like a pleasant sans-serif, not dissimilar to Trebuchet. I took a screenshot, but of course can’t attach that to a comment. I suspect the problem is that whatever font it is, it’s not installed on your computer.

  5. Okay, I put the screenshot on Flickr. I hope you’ll be able to see it:

    • Another thought — when I was setting up our family history blog I chose the “Digg 3-column” theme, partly because the text is legible, and the headings and the dates are clear. The typeface is slightly smaller than the one I complained of. It’s still sans serif, but it is legible. Yet when I go to the “Dashboard” for that, or any of my other WordPress blogs, I can barely read the stuff there.

      It makes me long for the good old days of amber monochrome monitors, whose legibility I’ve tried to reproduce on some of my regular web pages, like here: Pilgrims of the Absolute.

    • On my monitor the article looks exactly like the picture Sue posted. Very legible. I double checked on my iPad, no problem there as well. BTW, the “Amber on black” is difficult for me to read as well – almost glaring… I guess our eyes are all different.

  6. Still quite hard to read, but it might be easier if it could be enlarged a bit. The bits in blue are harder to read, though if I take a magnifying glass to the screen I can make them out.

    I suppose I could always copy the whole thing, and paste it into a word-processor to read it, but it would be so much easier if the site designer chose a more legible font to begin with.

  7. The thing is… I find that one much easier to read than the one on your family history blog, which looks minute on my screen – about half the size of the one where I posted the screenshot, and essentially the same colours. As for the orange on black, that hurts my eyes so much I had to click away from it. It glares almost like bright sunshine and made it virtually impossible to read.

    Every monitor is different and I guess we all see colours slightly differently too… I very much liked the one that you found illegible and might well have chosen it myself, although I try to ensure I choose widely-available ones in general. For what it’s worth, I find the textured background of this blog makes it quite hard to read; I usually read all blogs via an RSS reader rather than going to the blogs concerned; anything with a black background is almost unreadable to me, and texured backgrounds are difficult. I only ever look at the actual blogs when I’m writing a comment!

  8. I asked my wife to have a look, and she too found it difficult to read. I looked at it on my lasptop, which has a slightly less bright monitor and it isd slightly more readable there, but not much. I think it’s one of those fashionable minimalist things, where the criterion is minimal readability.

    I also tried to adjust the screen brightness on my monitor, but it isd one of the new fancy minimalist ones too, with invisible and intangible adjustment buttons, and even if you change the brghtness, it resets itself automartically every time you switch it off and on again.

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