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Author Topic: Site readability  (Read 4107 times)
Earnster
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« on: January 16, 2014, 04:42:55 AM »
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I know that criticism of the site's design is controversial and mostly ignored, but the other day I made the mistake of trying to read the HD-6 article on my iPhone.

Not to mince words, it was unreadable!
Tiny white type on a dark background really isn't conducive to enjoyment.

My way round was to save the article to Instapaper where the text appears in a nice readable font and font size on a white or cream background. But should I have to do that? It is 2014 and mobiles are everywhere.

Please consider the mobile user in the next round of site updates, they matter and the more you do to make the site readable on mobiles, the more views you will get and the more money you will make!!!

So it is a good business practice too! Smiley
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Rob C
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« Reply #1 on: January 16, 2014, 05:30:28 AM »
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I always knew that cellpix cameras would lead to no good!

;-)

Rob C
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nutcracker
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« Reply #2 on: January 16, 2014, 07:15:03 AM »
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Is it really a problem arising from the luLa website?
It is just as readable on my iPhone as on my iPad and on my full heft mac! when due allowance is made for page size
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HSakols
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« Reply #3 on: January 16, 2014, 08:40:47 AM »
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Were you driving while you checked ?   Grin
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OldRoy
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« Reply #4 on: January 16, 2014, 11:43:56 AM »
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W.O.B. Sigh... here we go again.

White text on black ground is one of the best ways that you can absolutely guarantee to reduce legibility. This isn't my opinion, it's a basic, well established, venerable, fact about document design. If even further reduction in legibility is required the simplest way is to make sure that the text is set in a "measure" (line length) that exceeds about 65 characters (inclusive of spaces). There are a number of additional strategies which can help reduce readability even further - such as setting the lines of text (leading) very close together.

Fortunately many of these basic rules are by now incorporated into a wide range of websites - although many sites have also found innovative ways to reduce readability, such as making sure that one has to scroll the site to one side before beginning to attempt reading the text content.

Roy
(aka Wally Olins)
« Last Edit: January 16, 2014, 11:54:06 AM by OldRoy » Logged
BJL
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« Reply #5 on: January 16, 2014, 01:45:59 PM »
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... the other day I made the mistake of trying to read the HD-6 article on my iPhone.

Have you tried using the "Reader" mode of Safari your iPhone? It converts articles on this and many sites into uncluttered, add-free black text on a white background, with images still displayed. In iOS 7, it is accessed by tapping the "page of text" icon of horizontal lines at the left of the URL window, which appears only if the current page can be handled by the Reader.

Enemies of "white on dark" can also use the Reader with the Safari browser on Macs, and AFAIK also with the Windows version of Safari.

Otherwise, the "mobile friendly" option offered so far for LuLa is reading it through the app http://tapatalk.com  But I have not felt a need of that yet, so cannot say how well it works.


In the long run I agree that it would be nice for this site to get a mobile friendly version.
« Last Edit: January 16, 2014, 01:49:16 PM by BJL » Logged
Earnster
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« Reply #6 on: January 18, 2014, 02:51:18 AM »
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I know all about the different methods of reading, such as Reader, Readability and Instapaper. The point is more, why should I have to, in 2014, resort to these to read the site's content on a device that is a standard way of using the Internet these days.
MR is a businessman, so one assumes things like making the site look good and read well would be important and good for business. We live in a world of responsive design, web font solutions, style sheets where you can make a mobile presentation look great for mobile reading, it would be great to use them.
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BJL
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« Reply #7 on: January 18, 2014, 10:09:14 AM »
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I know all about the different methods of reading, such as Reader, Readability and Instapaper. The point is more, why should I have to, in 2014, resort to these to read the site's content on a device that is a standard way of using the Internet these days.
I somewhat agree, as my final paragraph shows. But seriously, is one click on the "Reader" button such a big deal?

Maybe it makes more sense for mobile device readability issues to be handled once, in the design of the mobile web browser, rather than having to be dealt with many thousands of times over, by the authors and maintainers of each website. I like the original WWW design philosophy where an HTML document specified the content with visual abstraction ("this is a heading", "this is a paragraph"), and each reader, through browser choice and settings, controlled the visual presentation to taste ("display heading in 14pt bold centered", "display paragraph text in 12pt, wrapped to fit this window width"). That saved us from problems like text formatted with fixed line breaks that create nightmare of horizontal scrolling for people who choose a large text display size due to poor eyesight.
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Dave Millier
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« Reply #8 on: January 19, 2014, 06:10:00 AM »
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I do believe that most modern browsers possess accessibility settings that will allow the reader to override the site's design settings and apply their own stylesheet.  And good modern web design does emphasise the separation of structure and semantics (HTML), visual design (CSS) and client side interactivity (Javascript, jquery etc). 

So, I think you have no need to bemoan the loss of the good old days.

Quite the contrary in fact, the decline in usage of the most destructive browser ever invented (the hideous standards flouting and bug ridden Internet Explorer 6) has immeasurably helped improved the web, both in terms of standards compliance, accessibility and the abandonment of the myriad of hacks that were invented to make decent coding work with IE6.  It will probably take some time until every site coded to work well with IE6 (and therefore broken in every other browser) is eradicated but things are getting better every day.

The "coding for mobiles" issue is relatively new by comparison.  The rise of mobiles as the means to consume web content happened quickly. Most of the life of the web has been dominated by ideas of desktop browsers.  Work has been in progress to support mobile use for years but the world of web standards is a leisurely one, always outpaced by what's happening in real life.  "Responsive design" type approaches seem to be a decent industry response to the rise of the ubiquitous smart phone/tablet.  Using @media enquiries to detect device capabilities is quite reliable and what I favour at the moment.  Using these techniques it is quite easy to detect screen resolution and serve a different style sheet to different devices.  It's straightforward enough to implement, very reliable and only requires a minor shift in thinking:  design your default site for small mobiles and enhance the experience for devices with higher res screens (rather than what a lot of people have traditionally done, design primarily for the desktop with mobile support an add-on).

As mobile browsing inevitably surpasses desktop browsing we are bound to see a big shift in design approach. It's already starting.

Now, returning to the Luminous Landscape.... The usability of the site has always been appalling. It does seems almost a deliberate strategy of the management! Arguably the current design is slightly more useable - at least it doesn't require a 30 inch monitor to display without horizontal scrolling but it still isn't very good.  Given the amount of effort that appeared to be expended in building it and canvassing the opinions of users this is a disappointment and a surprise.

There is a certain irony in this, given how much LuLa like to criticise design decisions. Perhaps the next time Michael writes a review or article about the baffling usability flaws of the cameras he tests and shouts "Did they give this product to any photographers before releasing it?" he might reflect similarly about the web design/usability/accessibility of his site.  Maybe a successful design is not always so easy to pull off as it seems.
It helps if your web designer/coders understand and care about W3C standards, usability and accessibility and proper testing. It's very easy to believe you have done a good job when you haven't so an obvious question to ask is what is the expertise of the people doing the coding. Have they tested the site for W3C html and CSS standards compliance. Have they tested it for WAI compliance. Have they done usability tests with actual people? Have they sought the opinions of disabled people? Have they even run the site through an automated online checker?

Out of interest, I ran the Lula home page through the Sitemorse.com online checker (this is a subscription service I use at work).  The overall W3C compliance score was 2/10. The breakdown was very interesting. 10/10 for SEO - I would guess the team put some effort into this.  0/10 for functionality, 0/10 for accessibility (failing even rudimentary A standard), 2/10 for code standards, 7/10 for speed (probably another priority).  Because this is a test of only a single page, the scores can be swayed by a small number of errors so I wouldn't read too much into this but I think I'll test a sample of other pages to see what happens!






I somewhat agree, as my final paragraph shows. But seriously, is one click on the "Reader" button such a big deal?

Maybe it makes more sense for mobile device readability issues to be handled once, in the design of the mobile web browser, rather than having to be dealt with many thousands of times over, by the authors and maintainers of each website. I like the original WWW design philosophy where an HTML document specified the content with visual abstraction ("this is a heading", "this is a paragraph"), and each reader, through browser choice and settings, controlled the visual presentation to taste ("display heading in 14pt bold centered", "display paragraph text in 12pt, wrapped to fit this window width"). That saved us from problems like text formatted with fixed line breaks that create nightmare of horizontal scrolling for people who choose a large text display size due to poor eyesight.
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Dave Millier
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« Reply #9 on: January 19, 2014, 07:18:06 AM »
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I ran a number of pages through Sitemorse's checker and they all scored similarly, between 1.7 and 2.0 out of 10 with only SEO scoring well.  It's always interesting to do these checks because they are quite revealing.

A quick look at the source HTML and CSS shows generally neat and tidy code which implies the coder knows what they are doing, yet the technical code quality scores poorly.  In my experience this is very common. 

Sites that tend to score well, are sites where the authors appreciate that coding to a high standard is difficult and deliberately go out of their way to write high quality code and rigorously test everything.  Where this isn't done, even coders who are experienced and think of themselves as competent, tend to score poorly. 

This is a reflection of the fact that web designers/coders and their readers tend to judge sites by the look of the site above all else and browsers are quite forgiving of poor code.  This allows coders to spend their careers writing poor quality code whilst believing they're doing good work. A lot of coders are also self taught and have no appreciation of technical standards.  In my experience, (although not exclusively), the most compliant code tends to be produced by public sector coders who are forced by the public duty to code to published standards and to properly test everything and leading "web guru" sites (that have to live up to their own teachings).

So, not great code, but little different from your average site.  I would say that coder incompetence is not the explanation for the LuLa site style.  I expect it's just down to the management's expectations and likes. It would probably not take that much effort to tweak the code to improve usability, accessibility and code quality, you just have to want to and be prepared to do the testing.


I think I'll test a sample of other pages to see what happens!






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« Reply #10 on: January 19, 2014, 01:28:37 PM »
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Dave,

Thanks for doing this testing of LuLa and offering such clear explanations of what is going on. I do hope the Powers that Be at LuLa will pay attention.
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michael
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« Reply #11 on: January 19, 2014, 01:46:38 PM »
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Thank you everyone for your opinions.

Given the available time, human, and financial resources available, we do the best that we can.

I regret that things aren't better, and that some people are disappointed in the design of the site, the colours chosen, the shade of grey of the background, the typeface used, and the internal technical quality of the HTML code. My spelling is also frequently a point of criticism. Today I had a very strongly worded email from someone who was quite upset that at $12.50 our latest video was too expensive. Really?!

Every week for the past 15 years we have received private as well as public comments on every detail of every article and review published. We are too pro this, we are fan boys for that, there's a technical error, there's a gramatical mistake, etc etc.

Do any of you have any idea what it's like to have 1.2 Million people visiting the site each month, with everyone having a different opinion on this or that or something else?

No, I thought not. Few do, unless they have lovingly spent a decade and a half building and running a complex entity such as LuLa.

So, thank you everyone for your observations. They are all noted, though they are not all given equal attention or weight.

Michael
« Last Edit: January 19, 2014, 03:09:50 PM by michael » Logged
nutcracker
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« Reply #12 on: January 19, 2014, 02:58:23 PM »
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That, Michael, seems to me to be a thoughtful and reasoned and reasonable response.
As I read some of the postings, I began to wonder if Iphones differ, because I have not experienced difficulties looking at LuLa on mine.
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Christoph C. Feldhaim
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« Reply #13 on: January 19, 2014, 04:28:59 PM »
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When not on my PC I'm reading LuLa with TapaTalk on my Samsung Galaxy S2,
be it before sleeping or sitting on the toilet - Lula is always with me - and readable ... Wink
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mvsoske
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« Reply #14 on: January 19, 2014, 05:11:10 PM »
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Michael, just keep it coming.  It is invaluable to me.
Mark
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Schewe
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« Reply #15 on: January 19, 2014, 05:12:40 PM »
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...or sitting on the toilet - Lula is always with me - and readable ... Wink

TMI...

:~)
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Hans Kruse
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« Reply #16 on: January 19, 2014, 06:43:21 PM »
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I know that criticism of the site's design is controversial and mostly ignored, but the other day I made the mistake of trying to read the HD-6 article on my iPhone.

Not to mince words, it was unreadable!
Tiny white type on a dark background really isn't conducive to enjoyment.

My way round was to save the article to Instapaper where the text appears in a nice readable font and font size on a white or cream background. But should I have to do that? It is 2014 and mobiles are everywhere.

Please consider the mobile user in the next round of site updates, they matter and the more you do to make the site readable on mobiles, the more views you will get and the more money you will make!!!

So it is a good business practice too! Smiley

I usually do not read LuLa on my iPhone, but reading this comment I did. I have an iPhone 4 and I find the website very readable when turning the iPhone to horizontal view and double tapping on the text column to get rid of the adds at the side.  The font's are then the right side and it reads very well.
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Christoph C. Feldhaim
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« Reply #17 on: January 20, 2014, 12:41:03 AM »
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TMI...

:~)

This acronym evades me.
Would you please enlighten me?
I'm not afraid.
Cheesy
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Schewe
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« Reply #18 on: January 20, 2014, 12:42:41 AM »
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This acronym evades me.

Too much info...WAY TOO MUCH INFO!
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Christoph C. Feldhaim
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« Reply #19 on: January 20, 2014, 01:58:09 AM »
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Too much info...WAY TOO MUCH INFO!

LOL - Thanks for clearing that up.
But I think you can perfectly understand that occasional heavy-handedness. Wink
Cheers
~Chris
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