Eric Lawler writes a brief explanation on typography
, readability and the temporal nature of content in the age of Medium.com (his words, in fact). Eric makes the case for us, content creators and designers, to start building our own typographic platforms instead of blindly relying on Medium, for example. Here’s the premise which prompted the article:
Two curiously-related pieces of content were shared on Hacker News today. The first was a short article by Joshua Li
, explaining how a few basic CSS styles can make for a great-looking website—across varying devices. The second was a longer post by Marco Fioretti on how Google is “forgetting” the old web
But this isn’t an article, nor a newsletter, about the pros and cons of content gatekeeping in the Internet. The real reason why I’m sharing this is because one of the comments the author got about his blog, which only shows a few words per line at a time, stated that:
Is it just me, then, that hates the “narrow strip of text down the middle of my large monitor” school of web design?
I don’t understand why I’m being forced to scroll when there’s all this blank space to the sides.
If you work with type, you know exactly how to answer this. The reason why designers don’t fill up 1920px worth of screen resolution with running text is called “optimal text measure”:
A block of text or paragraph has a maximum line length that fits a determined design. If the lines are too short then the text becomes disjointed; if they are too long the content loses rhythm as the reader searches for the start of each line.
Ideally, you want to keep the width of paragraphs to around 50—80 characters per line. Too long, and your eyes will lose their place when coming back to the start of the next sentence.
So when does Medium come into the picture? you ask. In its early days, Medium was indeed known for honouring the typographical details we adore today. Get rid of all the clutter, all of the unnecessary, and read away. But as Medium got commercial, things started to change: suddenly, the platform became cluttered.
I even tweeted about this earlier this week, before reading this article, with a screenshot of what the experience of reading on Medium feels like on mobile.