Thursday, June 24, 2010

Internet Reading

How lazy are people?

Well, plenty damn lazy. In fact, I’ll bet that if I make this blog post longer than a single screen, more than half of you out there won’t even read it, even if I say I’m going to reveal something shocking and extremely interesting at the end of it. That, at least, ought to get some to scroll to the end of the post.*

Maybe it’s not laziness. Maybe it’s expectations. But I’m still not discounting laziness.

Take this, for example., one of my favorite blogs, but some of the commenters, well. There’s this post about an epic computer-repair fail that’s extended over a year and a half, so, yeah, it’s a bit long. 1,279 words, or about 2 ½ pages of a Word document. I read it in five minutes.

Some of the commenters, however, have issues with the length of the letter. And issues with comprehension, since at least one of them is convinced the repairs stretched out over only two months.

I know it was Internet vogue to write ‘em short ‘n’ peppy, chunking and all. The poster could have done that – as one commenter suggests. (See Commandment No. 5 on this page.) Just because “people have far less tolerance for large blocks of text” is no excuse for, well, not reading large blocks of text, whether you play little design (read chunking) tricks to stroke them into reading those long blocks of text. But to dismiss a post – or anything – for that matter, simply because it’s too long to read is just lazy.

I don’t mind chunking. I hate the Jakob Nielsen approach, pandering as it is to the scanners. Just make your text interesting, and people will read it, no matter the foo foo or folderol you incorporate into your web-based writing. And how can you take advice from someone whose web sites look like his do.

I’d like to see research that compares how people read on the web versus reading in other contexts. I think it’s fair to say that those who whine about long texts on the web are going to whine about long texts in other forms. Then again, they may read novels voraciously, depending on the compelling writing to get them through, rather than tricks.

And that’s what it is – it’s all tricks, be they chapter headings or line breaks in a novel or concise writing and hyperlinks online.

Me, I’d rather read a long text. I hate having to click on a link to get to the next bit of writing. And some of those Jakob Nielsen-inspired sites do that to a t—making you click, and I’m not kidding, twenty to thirty times to read through an article, because, well, chunking is more important to them that not annoying my type of reader.

I’m not against good, concise writing. I love it. I just hate to hear dismissals of good, long form writing by those who want to be spoon-fed factoids.

*Where they’ll search in vain and then find that the shocking and extremely interesting thing I promised at the end of this post is this custom-made footnote.

1 comment:

Wilson -Random visitor- said...

Damn you're custom-made footnote!