A More Readable Web

The bike industry is mobile, but our websites are not

Ed. note: cross posting here from G+ because of the relevance to local search, bike shops, and the industry that supplies them

For 20 years on the web, we’ve have been trying to recreate a print aesthetic. Now web designers have given up and gone back to the equivalent of where it began with black text, white backgrounds, and blue links. They’re calling it a “more readable Web.” Elezea talks about the issue and the future of the web in a recent post, with this pull quote

They’re filled with ads and social-media sharing buttons — and more ads. And Google plus-onesies and Facebook likeys. And also more ads. Plus tweet-this-es. Plus ads. (And, under-the-hood, a whole cruise-ship-full of analytics. The page required well-more than 100 http calls.)

My concern is the disconnect from Bros like Jeffrey Zeldman and Anil Dash who tout Readability (a more readable web service), is the business side. It’s not an act of web-design nobility, to scrape a website and repurpose it into your business model. That’s scraping content. It is however, an indication of how frustrating the web is these days. Also, the further disconnect from the beautiful web sites a business can make with how to pay for them.

So what happened was, our tools matured to make Web 2.0 and then we got all crazy with it – pushing all sorts of widgets and ad methods onto the page and the content aside. The rise of the Content Strategist is, in part, a reaction to this new overwhelming web. My talks for the past year have been about, “undesigning the web” or how to Design the Ordinary.

I doubt any large or small publisher is thrilled to have their content scraped, despite how great it looks or more readable it is. More importantly, business should see services like Instapaper, Safari’s Reader, and Readability as the strongest case yet to offer their own more readable content. It’s like you make waffles in your house and a waffle maker cart is parked outside making quicker, cheaper, better waffles for free. Or shit, you just spent a ton on your new iPad app that offers magical reading opportunities and what’s this? Another app is scraping your content? WTF?!

I use and love Instapaper. I save articles to read later on planes, like listening to podcasts. Same thing with Safari Reader. Buzz word aficionados call that, “long form.” I guess, but neither of those I consider scrapers. My reaction to their services was to roll out 1st a mobile version of Bike Hugger and then an iPad version. As I’ve posted earlier, the next rev is a Responsive design. I also posted about Safari Mobile’s Reader and said:

If you give your followers and fans clean content to begin with, I think they’re more likely to stay with your formatting, ads, and sticky features.

In response to the readable movement, I say, “own your own content.” Make it more readable yourself. We as designers, developers, and web people need to start thinking of how best to integrate content with the sales and marketing teams. Or with yourself, as an independent.

20 years into the web industry, we can’t just make shit up anymore or expect a readable aesthetic to drive the business or pay staff. We also can’t make something beautiful, then slaps ads all over it.

But the real driver towards a more readable web is mobile and the speed of content delivery. Mobile users have already left today’s hostile web behind, whether they know it or care.

That’s what’s important to business. You can’t bury your content in Flash or brochure sites anymore and it has to get delivered blazing fast. If not, your reader, customer, and client will leave and find what they’re looking for somewhere else.

What they are looking for is something they can easily read and also importantly, find locally. See another post on G+ about Local Search, where I uploaded this visual aid to explain it and the context to bike shops and their suppliers.

local search

  1. Post about Sidis
  2. Someone is shopping for Sidis
  3. Google Ad for Sidis to local, Seattle area shop

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