Monday, 9 April 2007

Frustrated by narrow text columns

Many web sites that provide textual information restrict the width of the text columns even if I have lots of spare space on my screen.

If I expand the viewing window width I expect the text column to expand also. Otherwise I end up with lots of wasted screen space, and having to waste time scrolling down (or up) the page to read more text. (Hmmm... I wonder if that seriously increases the risk of RSI?)

It gets worse if I increase font size (which I prefer to wearing my reading glasses). If the text column width is fixed, increasing font size means I get fewer characters per line (i.e. the line width is effectively shortened) requiring even more scrolling.

Why are there so many format dictators on the web?

Even the BBC does that: it is one of the worst. See http://news.bbc.co.uk/

Google news is much better in that respect.

If anyone can tell me how to alter these blogger pages so as to make the text column a percentage of the window width I'll be very grateful.
(You can email me at A.Sloman @ cs.bham.ac.uk -- thanks.)

3 comments:

Aaron Sloman said...

After writing the above I blindly messed around with the template editing tool and after various changes produced the current version. It may not look beautiful, but that's of no interest to me. I just want it to be easy to read with users in control of font size and line width, instead of being lumbered with somebody else's width limit.

Pascal said...

I think that there is a reason why the layout of weblogs tend to narrow pages of text. I think it is the same reason why newspapers often use multi-columns layout and also why LaTeX tends to narrow its own pages (to mention few examples).

The reason is that when a page of text has got more than about 80 characters per line, it becomes increasingly difficult for the vision center in the mind (which has to coordinate the eyes movements) to jump quickly from the end of a line to the begining of the following line (because of the wider distance between them).

This does not matter for one paragraph of text, but for long texts, people would tend to feel fuzzy and develop headaches.

I have actually noticed this with myself, and ever since, when I find a webpage with lots of things to read (as weblogs can be), if the layout doesn't limit itself the number of caracters by line, I tend to narrow the navigator window myself. My reading then become more enjoyable (at least it is no longer tiresome).

Rox said...

Hi Aaron, could you please let me know how you expanded the width of your blog? I have the same problem that you used to: A big monitor with just a narrow strip of content and tons of wasted space on the sides of my blog, ugh! Thanks for any input.