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Krystel Gosselin

Krystel Gosselin
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Reading On The Web

Published by gosk02@uqo.ca on 2012-04-02

Have you ever noticed how different reading off a computer screen is from reading a book or a newspaper article? Or that most of the time users (ourselves included!) tend to skip webpages that have large blocks of text? There are exceptions, of course, but reading that much information on a computer screen is usually unpleasant, and somewhat hard on the eyes. But why is that?


In my opinion, there are two major factors that affect a user’s reading abilities on a computer screen. The first one is the formatting, and the second is the technology involved. Let’s have a look.


Text formatting is an essential component of a good website. Most websites want to attract more users and transmit information (store website vs. city website, for example). A text that has certain words in bold will more easily attract the eye, and the same applies to italicized or underlined texts. Learning to use these tools strategically will enhance the user’s reading experience tenfold!

 While these tools are useful, overusing them will result in a very unattractive webpage that will be hard to read. Here is an example:

www.serene-naturist.com(Warning, music ahead!)


What is wrong with this picture? (And yes, this is a recent website). The animations are distracting to the reader, and the inconsistent formatting makes for a difficult read. On top of poor formatting, the creators of the website have also decided to place vital information (e.g. 24 hours’ notice) alongside unrelated, non- essential text (e.g. Escape for a while and enjoy a naturist massage).


Spreading out the information on relevant pages, spacing the text, and only using formatting when necessary could have saved us quite the headache.


As for the technology, this aspect impacts us less and less as technology improves and people are upgrading their systems. A good-quality monitor will make reading online easier as opposed to a poor-quality monitor with poor lighting and resolution.


A translator that is aware of these fundamental rules is an asset. Knowing how to format your own text could also be the very next step in web translation! I will be addressing this subject in my next blog.


Writing or translating for the Web requires a whole new perspective on writing. Texts need to be spaced out to give the eye a reference point—should the user lose track of his reading—and the information needs to be divided efficiently to allow quick research throughout the page. Knowing how to give this to your readers is the key to a successful and helpful website!


If you’re feeling adventurous, try a Google search for bad websites. I found my example here: www.webpagesthatsuck.com


A French author, Kavanagh, wrote an interesting article in 2006, titled "La rédaction Web : anatomie d'une « nouvelle » expertise.". If web translation interests you, I suggest you give it a read.