When I look at what I have posted on this blog recently, I realise what a grumpy old git I have become.
Half the posts seem to complaining about things that used to work, but don’t (or soon won’t, like Dropbox). Or things that you used to be able to buy in the shops, like peanut butter and gooseberry jam, and apple and quince jelly, but no longer can.
But today I want to say kudos to The Guardian for their web site.
I visited the site today because someone posted a link to a review on Facebook. I thought the review was worth reading so I’ll post the link here too: You Could Look It Up by Jack Lynch review – search engines can’t do everything | Books | The Guardian.
And while I was there they asked me to complete their survey on the “user experience”.
Normally the term “user experience” drives me up the wall.
There’s an example right here on the page as I type this in WordPress. It says “There’s now an easier way to create on WordPress.com! Switch to the improved posting experience.”
I tried it for about two sentences and switched back immediately, because the “improved posting experience” translated into English as “increased frustration”, I couldn’t read what I typed. I couldn’t read the menu options. I couldn’t read a damn thing. That, they told me, was an “improved posting experience”.
Nevertheless, after reading the article in The Guardian, I completed the survey, which meant I had to actually look at The Guardian‘s pages, and I realised just how good they are.
For a start, it was legible.
It was in a readable font, and there was enough contrast between text and background to read without holding a magnifying glass up to the screen to find out that that “ll” was actually a “bb” (yes, that happens quite often). Sometimes I just mark/define/select the text as if I’m going to copy it — you know, Ctrl-C + Down Arrow. That usually gives light-coloured text on a dark background, which is much more legible. But why should one have to resort to such things just because some idiot declared that light grey text on a white background was fashionable?
But The Guardian‘s web site isn’t like that. It’s legible right off the screen.
And another thing, the text doesn’t jump around for a minute before you can read it.
That happens a lot on other news sites that I get to by following links from social media sites like Twitter and Facebook. Someone posts a link to an article that looks as though it might be interesting reading. You read half a sentence, and it jumps up or down off the screen. You try to scroll to find the bit where you were reading, and nothing happens. Firefox is “not responding”. Eventually you try to close the page and Firefox bombs out, and then Windows advises you that plugincontainer.exe had a problem and had to close, and invites you to tell Microsoft about this problem. That’s my “user experience” most of the time these days. I suspect it would be more use telling Mozilla about the problem, but the best thing would be to tell the web page designer who tried to fit 10 litres into a plug-in container that was only designed to hold one litre.
I noticed that The Guardian site didn’t seem to have these problems, or it had them to a much lesser extent than a lot of other news sites.
OK, this post is also a bunch of complaints about a lot of websites from a grumpy old git.
But not The Guardian.
Kudos to The Guardian for creating a site where the web pages are legible, hold still while you are trying to read them, and scroll when you want to read more.
That sort of behaviour is quite exceptional in news web sites these days, and deserves an honourable mention.