Tuesday, June 21, 2005

Focus Factors

I'm finding I have problems reading some blog posts out there. Not due to content, but the format of the post itself, especially posts I have to scroll down to keep reading. I've figured out a formula for it:

Extended length posts + small font - paragraph breaks = hard to follow text.

I have a form of visual ADD -- I tend to skim long blocks of text unless the content holds me -- but small-font text on the computer seems ten times worse than print. The more I read, the more the letters actually seem to dance across the window. Yet if there are paragraph breaks, the text doesn't do the Hustle, so I'm pretty sure it's not me (I plan to ask the eye doc next month when I go for my routine checkup.)

As to font size, the smallest print I can read in comfort seems to be 9 pt. Anything smaller is a challenge. Some font types are even hard to read at 10-11 pt. because the shapes of the letters can be easily confused with each other (arial, mangal, and trebuchet are natural focus-killers, for example.)

I also find I almost never read other writer's blogged snippets or short stories when I'm online. If I'm intrigued, I will print them out and read them off paper, but I avoid reading fiction off the screen. I do the same thing with e-books. I've always kidded around about being on the computer enough with my own work, but actually I have no logical excuse as to why it bugs me. An unnatural fixation with fiction on paper, perhaps?

What are your focus challenges when you're out and about blog-hopping?

34 comments:

  1. 'Busy' pages are my Achilles' heel. If there's too much on-screen to look at -- too many graphics, too much flash -- I tend to give it a quick glance and go on. I'm almost guilty of the same thing on my blog, but my saving grace is everything's static. I don't think I have ADD, but I am blind as a bat and prone to migraines (most triggered by flashing lights).

    Yet, I still play video games. Go figure . . .

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  2. Colors. I strongly dislike disconcerting contrasts like purple text against a blue background. Or those hOrRIBlE "let's change the font for change" sake entries. One word is okay, but an entire post?

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  3. Moi aussi, colors. Blue on red, red on blue, light green on green.

    Tiny text. My eyes are my livelihood. I won't strain them to read tiny text I cannot adjust.

    Badly blocked text. Breaking things up into lists and paragraphs is oh, so helpful, and I'm more likely to read it that way.

    Authors who misspell...a lot. I realize there are authors with severe dyslexia who live and die by the Word spellchecker. And God knows my blog-writing isn't perfect, but there are times I wonder how some of these people got published.

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  4. Let's see - blog peeves...
    Bright colors, small fonts, fancy fonts, too many spaces and long paragraphs, and cutie things that move, flash, bounce around, or follow your curser as you try to move it over the page.
    As for speling, it matters not. I can't spell to save my life, and wouldn't catch a spelling mistake if it hit me in the nose. What I don't like are mis-used words. (their for they're, it's for its, etc.)

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  5. Text that blends into the background. These eyes are getting old...

    And if you're recommending books to read, I'm probably tempted to stop perusing your site to run off and look for them. A weird sort of ADS, but there it is.

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  6. zornhau4:46 AM

    >I have a form of visual ADD --
    >I tend to skim long blocks of
    >text unless the content holds me -

    No, I think that's normal for anybody who writes for a living. I'm a technical author by trade, and I find it almost physically painful to read large chunks of badly written text, e.g. other people's rambling and prolix reports.

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  7. I have a hard time reading posts without paragraph breaks.

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  8. Bright colors (and bad color schemes) kill my eyes, and I have to avoid the blog. The other thing that causes me to skip over something is no paragraph breaks. A giant page, with no indentations or breaks - not going to even bother.

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  9. Blog design peeves? Too many to name. It boggles the mind why people can't understand that a basic black typeface against a white background is the best presentation.

    Ok, here's a big peeve. White text on a black background. People! Large blocks of inversed type is impossible to read!!! Especially if the type is small!

    When I am trolling for new blogs to read, if the design is a mess and it's difficult to read, I move on. Fast.

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  10. Arghh! RED text on a BLACK background! I'll actually skip that page, no matter what the content. And I don't like long unbroken passages of text.

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  11. I'm not bothered by much. Too small font is one. I visit a couple of blogs where the font is teeny. Even with my glasses on I'm squinting. If the post is extremely long sometimes I only skim. My day is crammed. I already spend more time reading blogs than I should. I try to keep length in mind at my own blog. Regardless, sometimes they still seem too long... uh, sort of like this comment. Argh!

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  12. Ouch, I better check my Travel Diary for lengthy paragraphs. I tend to get into History Essay writing mode when I write for that blog.

    My peeves: black background, too tiny scripts, blogs that scream "buy my books" all over the place. I like links in the sidebar, but not mega-sized headers or backgrounds in the style of books covers and other glaring ads. If I want bad commercials I can watch TV. *grin*

    And I prefer the comment feature to be enabled. I understand why some don't do it (fe. Holly Lisle) but a new blog I find gets a better chance if I can comment.

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  13. Anonymous9:36 AM

    I get really irritated by posts full of misspellings, and strange colour combinations. Not too bothered about small font size; I tend to just enlarge the font size on the screen if it's too small.

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  14. Scott wrote: I don't think I have ADD, but I am blind as a bat and prone to migraines (most triggered by flashing lights).

    Ditto here -- and thanks, Scott, I'm going to mention this to the eye doc. Now stop playing those video games and get to work. :)

    Joel wrote: Or those hOrRIBlE "let's change the font for change" sake entries.

    Also something I find mildly annoying at times, as well as posts that use CAPS for STRESSED words (however, I do the same thing with italics, so I have to room to complain.)

    Stephanie wrote: Authors who misspell...a lot.

    (whistling and looking innocent)

    Sam wrote: cutie things that move, flash, bounce around, or follow your curser as you try to move it over the page.

    Those things freak me out (the line of words or symbols that follow the cursor.) I'm sorry, but they do. They remind me of that feeling you get when you look down and realize 18 inches of toilet paper are stuck to your shoe and you haven't been in a restroom in two hours.

    Dreamweaver wrote: ...if you're recommending books to read, I'm probably tempted to stop perusing your site to run off and look for them.

    Hey, have you read . . . lol

    Zornhau wrote: I'm a technical author by trade...

    Zornhau has been holding out on us. Or I need to plunder his blog archives.

    Jorie wrote: I have a hard time reading posts without paragraph breaks.

    Do you find that you constantly lose your place as you're reading big blocks of text on a screen?

    Andi wrote: Bright colors (and bad color schemes) kill my eyes, and I have to avoid the blog.

    What combos are in your bad category, Andi? I find pink on medium blue the worst.

    Patricia wrote: White text on a black background.

    Yep. That's another focus-killer for me. I can do a little better with pastel-colored text on a black background if the font is a decent size.

    Nancy wrote: RED text on a BLACK background!

    Amen, sister. Now that I think about it, that one is really worse than pink/blue. You red-on-black lovers listening?

    Beth wrote: My day is crammed. I already spend more time reading blogs than I should. I try to keep length in mind at my own blog. Regardless, sometimes they still seem too long... uh, sort of like this comment.

    Same here. Although I have my blog-cruising linkage worked out so I can do it more efficiently now. As for comment length, I have no room to speak, seeing how I've been hogging your and Mary's comments lately.

    Gabriele wrote: ...blogs that scream "buy my books" all over the place. I like links in the sidebar, but not mega-sized headers or backgrounds in the style of books covers and other glaring ads.

    I have to agree with this, too. I like seeing thumbnail-size or slightly larger cover images, but bigger than that distracts me from the text, particularly if it's a vivid or interesting cover. Then I end up doing what Dreamweaver does -- I leave the blog and go look for info on the book.

    Anonymous wrote: ...I tend to just enlarge the font size on the screen if it's too small.

    How do you do that? Seriously. I've heard people say that before and I've yet to find an enlarge-the-font button anywhere (please remember that I am a techno-idiot.)

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  15. Look under View --> Text Size in your browser.

    Though I try to design to allow for font size flexibility, and in theory I like it when others do as well, I confess I almost never actually fiddle with my settings.

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  16. Anonymous10:01 AM

    You can also try holding down the control key and hitting the + sign key. Don't know if this works for everyone (I run in Linux) but that's how I increase my font size. Decrese is the same but you hit the - key instead of the +.

    Lene'

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  17. Anonymous10:02 AM

    Ack! *Decrease*, not whatever that abomination is that I fat-fingered before.

    Apologies.

    Lene'

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  18. In windows you can hit the CTRL key at the same time as moving the mouse wheel up or down too.

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  19. zornhau10:16 AM

    PBW wrote: Zornhau has been holding out on us. Or I need to plunder his blog archives.

    You won't find much about techwriting there! If it's anecdotal, it's probably also not safe to post it.

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  20. I get truly annoyed when blog entries seem to consist solely of quotes of other's blog entries. Especially when they are in big chunks. That doesn't seem right. Why not just post a link? Hmmmm?

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  21. I don't like blogs that are nothing but sales hype. (note I say this as my own blog has become a platform for the GCC, but - dammit! - it's only twice a month!) I also have a problem with hot colors. Hot pink, hot yellow, day-glo green... even if it's not the text. Makes me squint to cut the glare which causes wrinkles - ha! something to blame my crow's feet on! - and gives me a headache.

    As for the red and black thing. Tough luck, too bad, it's my look. But I don't use it for body copy, only heads. And we're working on removing the black backgrounds. So I'm trying.

    I better go back to work now...

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  22. Tam wrote:As for the red and black thing. Tough luck, too bad, it's my look. But I don't use it for body copy, only heads.

    Headers aren't the problem -- I like yours, and it looks good against the white. It's the full body, black background/red text that kills my focus. Especially with small fonts.

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  23. I am the same way about fiction on paper. I think it's wonderful that there are all these free books on the internet, but when I sit down to read one I can't stay focused. The same goes for audiobooks. It takes me longer to listen to a book than it does to read one.

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  24. I have to weigh in on the huge text blocks as well. I can't keep my eyes on the page that long and there are no beginnings and ends to direct me back to where I started.

    On the migraine issue, I actually have to speak out against black on white. The best colors for migraine in my experience is dark blue letters an a lightish green background (the old toshiba laptop colors) and barring that, a tan background to dull the glow. That said, my website is black on white too :).

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  25. It's all still a mystery to me. There is one site I visit that uses small white font on a navyblue background.

    Can't read it. Not sure that anyone can read it, but maybe that's the point?

    And like everyone else I try to make the text big enough in my Blog so that folks don't have to do the CTRL+ in Mozilla or the VIEW size thing in IE to read.

    Your font family and size on your page is perfect for these low-vision aging eyes.

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  26. Usually I don't advocate pastels, but they work well as background colors. I still like black for my text, or a very dark gray.

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  27. Bright backgrounds like yellow, orange, hot pink, etc. are hard on my eyes. Any combination that doesn't have a big enough contrast so the text stands out makes me leave the page. That's the problem with black/red. There's not enough contrast and the explanation gets into the color theory stuff I learned in one of my Photoshop classes. I won't bore you with it.

    You're welcome.

    Small fonts, same as what everyone else said. I don't want to have to squint to read the text.

    My one new contribution: Busy backgrounds that interfere with the text. Even if you lighten them up so they're barely visible, a patterned background can make the text really confusing to read.

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  28. Blog Peeves...

    ...Java script that makes you click ok a number of times to get to the page and doesn't give you a cancel option.

    Midi... I listen to my own music thank you, I don't need midi interrupting my life.

    Text blocks. I agree with the break it up idea.

    As to some of the other things I can usually do something about them. I change the font settings in my browser to be comfortable to me, and colors don't bother me unless they are too similar, purple on black or blue.

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  29. Kaelle1:46 PM

    Sheila, I use IE 6 browser. So, bearing that in mind for anyone who also uses that browser, here's a tip on sizes while viewing:

    Go to Tools->Internet Options and on the General tab at the bottom you will see Fonts... and Accessibility... tabs.

    The Fonts tab you can set what font style you want to see and on the Accessibility tab you can have IE ignore colors, font styles and font sizes specified on Web pages. And you can even format using your own style sheet (a feature I haven't used so can't comment on). Then you can increase or decrease your view of font size by View->Text Size on the browser menu.

    Hope this helps!

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  30. Jorie wrote: I have a hard time reading posts without paragraph breaks.

    Do you find that you constantly lose your place as you're reading big blocks of text on a screen?


    Yes, this is a big part of the problem. I really have to focus when I reading a big block of text and the result is I often give up.

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  31. Worst of all, for me anyway, is text over a busy background image. If it's something I want to read, I'll select all the text and copy and pase into a word document.

    Is there anyone who isn't ADD anymore? I have the same problem. I can't even read a list in order. I dance all over it until I think I've gotten it all.

    And, yes, enough with the music already.

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  32. Count me one of those who hates white text on a black background. Or any light text on dark background, for that matter. It gives me a headache and leaves residual images imprinted on my retinas for long minutes afterwards. Makes me crazy.

    It's a shame because I've happened on a couple of blogs where the content looks really intriguing but I can't manage to stick around long enough to get through any of it.

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  33. I'm one of the red on black brigade, (sometimes) but I love it, so it's staying.

    My own peeves are small fonts and long paragraphs, I get bored easily, and psychologically speaking, if I see a long post with no breaks, it's an uphill battle from there. More often than not, I'll move on fairly quickly.

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  34. Mostly "what they said"

    Scott: "I don't think I have ADD, but I am blind as a bat and prone to migraines (most triggered by flashing lights)."

    Higher refresh rate on your monitor/vidcard. Check how to change in your OS. Most modern Windows computers it's something like, RIGHT-CLICK on desktop, select PROPERTIES. Then select Settings>Advanced>Adapter. Set your refresh rate to at least 75Hz if your adapter allows it.

    Changing font size in browsers?

    Firefox and Internet Exploder: View>Font Size
    Opera: CTRL Key+wheel (on wheel mouse)--there are other ways, but if you're browsing without a scroll wheel, get a new mouse. It's worth it.

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