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Content Design: Centering for Better Reading Experience

23 Ago/10

lead image Content Design: Centering for Better Reading Experience

If you’re a blogger, the design of your website is probably a two-column layout with the main content and a sidebar. If you recognize your design in this ordinary layout, you should consider an other approach. For user experience reasons you should think of compact content that is centered.

Quick nav:

The main components of this new trend

Centering the content of a website has become a new trend, but it’s not (yet) widely applied; it doesn’t get a lot of attention in the web design / blog community. It’s not all about centering the content. You should also keep the content’s width small. So the two main ingredients for a better user experience are:

  1. a centered design
  2. and compact/small content.

Examples

A blog post of madewithlove.be, a web developing company:

Made With Love, Web Developers

A blog post of onemorething.nl, the largest Apple community of the Benelux:

OneMoreThing, Dutch Apple Community

Notice on both sites that only single posts have such a design. This is a good thing, because only single posts require such an experience.

Why you should do it

This trend is – in my opinion – a positive development, because it deals with the experience of the reader and it’s not just a fancy eye candy effect. If you’re working with a text editor (like MS Office Word or Apple Pages), you probably work with the window in the center of your screen. So why don’t you let your readers experience the same user-friendliness with your blog posts which are, in principle, online text documents?

A Litte Experiment

Try it yourself and answer the following question: Would you work comfortable with a setup like the screenshot below?

Demonstration of a centered window - 1 of 2

Now you should take a look at the image below and you will see that more (reading) comfort will be achieved with the setup that has the window in the center of the screen.

Demonstration of a centered window - 2 of 2

Apply this Experiment in Web Design

The effect of a centered design is that the reader doesn’t need to turn his eyes to the left of his screen anymore, so he can focus his eyes straight at the screen. Normally, the sidebar on the right would push the content to the left which will force your eyes to the left.

Don’t forget the second component that is crucial for this ergonomic comfort: keeping the content small will not force the visitor to turn his eyes from the left to the right (like watching a tennis game) of his screen while reading the content.

But what about the page fold?

The page fold is the lowest point of your screen. Behind this point the website’s content is not visible without scrolling. The major cause for this fold is your screen resolution.

Some people might be worried about the content after the page fold, because a smaller width of the blog post will make the post longer. This kind of arguments should be neglected since they are a myth. If you would like to find out more about this subject, visit the following links:

However, if you write a never-ending string of text, the reader’s eyes will gloss over, as they scroll to the bottom of the article. Divide the article with headings, which are essential. This allows the reader to quickly scroll to their desired portion of the article.

Why you shouldn’t do it

If you’re a blogger with a lot of advertisements on your website you probably reserved the sidebar for these advertisements. However, it’s still possible to do it when you use a small sidebar. But you should notice that no matter how small the sidebar is, the post content will not be centered optimal/perfect anymore. An example is the website ImpressiveWebs.com.

Impressive Webs

A More Optimal Solution

Compared with the first images in this post, you can see that the absence of other columns – like the sidebar – on the page will have a more rustic appearance. So we can conclude that a clean look is a third component for an optimal user experience, but the other two are sufficient. If you’d like to go for the optimal solution, you need more creativity to design your website. ‘Where do I need to place my search bar?’ and ‘What about the list of my categories?’ are questions that require more attention in the design process.

P.S. – The designers of the browser Safari must have realized the same and introduced the same function as Safari Reader in version 5 of the browser. It does not only removes visual distractions for a clean look, but it also centers the article and it keeps the article’s width small. These are all of the components we discussed in this article before. (So they did a good job improving the readability of websites by introducing this tool.)

Share your thoughts

How do you think about this subject? Do you have too much advertisements to apply a centered content on your site? Do you like the challenge of rethinking the design process?

I’d like to hear more about these questions and the whole subject in general in the comments.

Continua a leggere – Original Link: Content Design: Centering for Better Reading Experience

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