BLOG USABILITY

Eric Siegmund has two posts commenting on various blogs and how user-friendly they are. (Ironically, his permalinks don’t work despite not being a blogspot blog.)* A very interesting and worthwhile topic; I know I find a lot of blogs almost unreadable.

He lumps OTB in with sites that are hard to read because their fonts are too small:

This is soooo easy to fix. If you’re using Cascading Style Sheets (and why wouldn’t you?), don’t specify a font-size for your body text. Let the visitor’s browser preferences rule; your visitor, after all, knows better than you what size font best fits his or her monitor resolution and corrective lens prescription. But if you just have to specify a font-size — if you just can’t allow your visitor that kind of unfettered license — pick a big size. Instapundit uses 12 pixel Verdana; Roger Simon goes even bigger, with 14px Verdana. The text on these blogs is quite legible, regardless of your monitor’s resolution (mine is a hefty 1280×1024). On the flip side are sites like Outside the Beltway, which specifies a body text of small and a blockquote text (generally, the quote in a box within a given post) of extra-small. When you couple that specification with a serif font (he uses Palatino/Georgia) which is less legible on a computer screen than a sans-serif, it makes for tough reading. Depending on the time of day, I simply can’t read OTB without bumping my browser text-size setting a couple of notches. Even Lileks — whom I never fail to read, however squint-eyedly — needs to get with the program. Mr. Lileks gets points for using Adobe GoLive as his layout program, but loses them and more for continuing to use the font-size tag (oh, the shame of it all!) instead of using CSS to handle that chore. And Trebuchet MS, his font of choice (and mine), is smallish to begin with.

I’ll be glad to fix this if this is a problem. Oddly, I’ve always thought the posting font on my site was a little TOO BIG.

*Apparently, Blogger itself sucks, not just Blogspot.

Update (13:29): I’ve made a couple of minor changes to the CSS and Eric has now conferred “A blessing on [my] head.”

Update (13:47): Eric has now stopped using Blogger software and is so fed up with it he’s just manually posting until he can get MT set up. Heh.

FILED UNDER: Blogosphere
James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College and a nonresident senior fellow at the Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security at the Atlantic Council. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm vet. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.

Comments

  1. Bryan says:

    He uses the Blogger software (a lot of people have been doing this, I think), even though he’s on his own domain, and his server company is in the middle of an upgrade.

  2. Bryan says:

    And your blockquotes are a little small. The thick/thin nature of serif type makes it difficult to read on a monitor.

  3. O. F. Jay says:

    I’m used to reading serif fonts on screen with cleartype on a CRT monitor. Imagine that. It could be worse, James. Your typeface could be TNR.

  4. James Joyner says:

    What’s really amusing is that Palantino/Georgia is the Movable Type default font. I kept it because I liked the look of it.

  5. Steven says:

    I have never had any trouble with your fontsize, but I have noted, generically, that sites don’t consistently appear the same on different machines/browsers, which can be very annoying when trying to get one’s site set up.

  6. Xrlq says:

    Your fonts look a little large to me. Not “too” large, but at the high end of the “just right” range, i.e., not small by any means. I wonder if their actual display size is browser-dependent?

  7. James Joyner says:

    I always thought they were largish, too–especially in that small frame they’re in. Right now, it looks to me to be not only larger than Fireant’s font but larger than Roger Simon’s.

    Apparently, yes on the browsers. He’s using Netcape on a Mac.

  8. joy says:

    Your fonts look small even now, but this is on Mac w/Safari.

    On my Windows machine, I think everything looks ok.

  9. James Joyner says:

    Joy: Clearly, there’s something weird going on with the Macs, which is what Eric is using, too. I’m finding the font enormous on IE6 using the default “medium” font size setting. My sidebar and below-the-post fonts are small, but the posts themselves look really large to me. Oh, well.

  10. Paul says:

    I have no idea why there is a problem I run Safari on like 4 different Macs and I have no problem.

    I squint a lot and get headaches but no real problems.

    No seriously… I don’t have a problem. I can sorta see how some people might complain about the block quotes being smallish, but it ain’t that bad.

    My 78 Rubles.

  11. I’ve always found OTB very readable, and I’m on a Mac (using Explorer).

    And I almost always prefer serif fonts, for legibility.

    I agree that there are some near-unreadable blogs out there. My pet peeve? Paragraphs that go on forever . . . if people would learn the value of a hard return here and there, the world would be a better place.

    (Wait. What did I just say?)