Web Reading UX Etcetera Part 4






Top HN comment:

I wish people who made webpages trusted browsers to scroll. The number of sites that play with the scroll speed and consistency by hijacking scroll events makes me doubt whether the designers spare a passing thought for usability.

There's nothing more annoying than a web designer saying "I know better than you" and re-implementing features. Because they're usually wrong.

Especially for read-only websites.


Yes, you can create websites and applications without JavaScript. Everything that is possible in JavaScript can be done on the server side. But this is not how we roll, right? We need “new” and “cool” technology don’t we? Otherwise we (web developers) would be bored.

A lot of web development is done on applications that consist of lists, forms and buttons (administrative applications). Those applications definitely do not need JavaScript. People creating games or other real-time experiences, may consider themselves lucky, they are excepted.

Great! Not convinced? And you think I am a JavaScript hater? Well, I am not. I am the author of the extensive MinJS.org JavaScript MVC web framework.

The first [goal] is to make the top of the news simpler with better-designed pages. It needs to be good-looking, and readable.

We have to get rid of the extraneous, crappy ads. We’ve got to calm that down. I mean, if we’re not making money from that, all we’re doing is pushing people away.

What we really want to do is create experiences that people enjoy, that are branded enough, that are different enough, that once you come back to The Guardian, for instance, you know you’re in The Guardian.


In my opinion, the author incorrectly mixes the terms "internet" and "web" when I believe that the author is discussing the web. I've substituted "web" where the author used "internet".

Auto-play videos lurking in unopened tabs. Pop-ups that won’t go away. Photos that won’t load. Text that’s invaded by ads. It’s hard to complain about the [web] without feeling like a mom struggling to post on Facebook, but going [the web] has started to feel like an assault on the senses.

Between the Platonic nothingness of Medium and the easy-to-use automation of Tumblr, it seems like media companies big and small should be able to create a functional website without too much trouble. A few minutes online proves that this is not the case.

https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=14088092 - april 2017 hn thread about the fall 2015 web obesity post.

april 7, 2000 - https://alistapart.com/article/dao



HN comment:

Unfortunately, every other web designer today seems to think I don't want to read a bloody article, but rather to be engaged by an interactive article-reading application that's basically impossible to distinguish from native applications, except for those eighty quirks that are definitely going to be solved by morehacks.js and those new CSS perversions.

Web browser developers seem to cater towards those needs, which is how we ended up with browsers where I can run fifty gazillion floating-point instructions per second in JavaScript but it takes me five seconds to find a bookmark, three of which are spent hovering over the titlebar until I remember there's no menubar anymore.

Another comment:

I surf with JavaScript disabled by default and selectively enabled for a few frequently used sites that directly benefit from it. I rarely find sites that are unreadable without JS--certainly less often than I used to experience sites that were unreadable because of it. On the rare occasions I find a site that wont work without JS (most common symptom:completely blank page) my decision more often than not is to close the tab and move on with my life. I don't think I'm missing out on much and my computer's fans no longer scream constantly when my machine is idle with the usual dozens of open tabs.



I've been traveling more so i've been studying data and usage as it applies to my personal usage. The result: I've had to completely turn off cellular data for web browsing. I can't browse the internet at all. Every page i download, every news article, easily 2-3MB, and when your total data allotment is 500MB, you just can't browse the internet.

Wow, "only" 2 to 3 megabytes in size. Many times, I encounter web article pages that measure at least 5 to 10 megabytes. And here's a new contender for the worse media web design on the planet.

Apr 23, 2017
From: Dulles, VA - Chrome - Cable 4/23/2017, 8:28:25 AM
first view fully loaded
45.905 seconds
378 requests
13,485 KB downloaded bytes

That AP story contained one 800 x 533 pixel photo. The body of the article contains about 900 words. Yet AP required a reader to download over 13 megabytes of info. And the "repeat view" was nearly identical in download time and download bytes. 74.3% or 8.7 megabytes of the downloaded bytes were for "other". 1.6 megabytes were for JavaScript.

That AP website is new, or it's a new design that replaces their Big Story site. Maybe the site is unfinished.

When JavaScript is permitted, my small, inexpensive, and apparently under-powered Chromebook struggles to load a single apnews.com article page. With JavaScript disabled, an article loads quickly and fine, including the images. I'm shocked that the designers didn't use JavaScript to display images. They're using the old fashioned HTML "img" tag.

But when I click on a section or try go visit the apnews.com homepage with JavaScript disabled, I see a blank screen. I'm using the Quick JavaScript Switcher extension in the Chrome browser.

The Associated Press has created a reader-hostile website. It opposes diversity, inclusiveness, and accessibility among readers who use slow, old computing devices, use low resolution screens, have slow cellular connections, have small data plans, and prefer to view sites with scripts blocked.

The text-based Lynx browser cannot load apnews.com. Lynx returns the following error message:

Making HTTPS connection to apnews.com

Alert!: Unable to make secure connection to remote host.

My private, web-based, messaging site https://soupmode.com loads fine within Lynx.

When I curl https://apnews.com, mainly JavaScript is returned, along with the bare minimum HTML. apnews.com is a single page application. How does this work for screen readers for the visually impaired? What about readers who have slow mobile connections and small data plans?

I could understand a small, local, weekly newspaper website unintentionally creating a massively bloated and nearly inaccessible website, but this is the Associated Press.

On Apr 25, 2017, I tested another article that contained one medium-sized image. The body text contained fewer than 800 words. It's a simple article, yet it took over 80 seconds to download over 8 megabytes of crapware.

This new AP news website is another example of the media's war on the web. What problem is being solved by designing the apnews.com homepage as an SPA? Why would users need to download 8 to 13 megabytes of data to read a simple apnews.com article?

May 17, 2017 update: Re-ran the test on the first AP article mentioned above. The site still requires 13 megabytes of crap to be downloaded to view a simple article.




HN comment:

I can read "War and Peace" as an HTML document on my 7 year old cheapo Android phone. The browser even "streams" the data, displaying each chunk as it loads over a slow connection.

HTML version of WAR AND PEACE By Leo Tolstoy/Tolstoi:

Kindle version is 5.2 MB


Adblock adoption hasn't been the greatest thing for Fark's bottom line either, but don't worry, I totally understand why people use it. The ad industry seems fixated on video ad units, usually loud autoplay ads, and the CPU load these ad units create can crash browsers on older computers - incidentally we don't allow this type of ad, although it's becoming a larger and larger percentage of overall ad spending in general. People don't use adblock because they hate ads, they use adblock because they hate what online advertising has become. I personally believe this is a temporary situation, like popup ads in the early 2000s. Unfortunately, it doesn't look like the ad industry is any closer to realizing that antagonizing potential customers is an entirely counterproductive way of marketing. As a business owner, I also can't assume they'll magically figure this out in the next 3-6 months. My main point here is I don't blame Adblock, I blame the ad industry for sucking.


Of course I’ll whitelist advertising on kottke.org. I don’t block ads because I don’t want to see any ads. I block them because I don’t want my experience to turn to shit the minute I visit a site. I trust that Kottke and Carbon won’t let that happen.


The above HN thread pointed to a Forbes story about Craigslist. When JavaScript is disabled, the Forbes website displays nothing. It's not a single page application. I think. A view-source shows the HTML content, but for some reason, JavaScript is required to display the content.

HN comments:

Forbes is unequivocally the worst website I have the displeasure of being linked to on a regular basis. Readability is quickly approaching 0. This page kept hijacking my scroll thru the article to keep an ad at the top of my window. Horrible, horrible, horrible.

Another HN comment:

I couldn't tell as trying to access the article is hijacked and redirected to https://www.forbes.com/forbes/welcome/?toURL= and stay stuck there until I start disabling privacy measures and allow scripting. I won't even try clicking another forbes link from now on.

Another HN comment:

Overall, most press/journalism sites I use are terrible. Performance stinks, flash everywhere, ads that nobody clicks on. Horrible.


Not to mention all the "adblock detected" crap. I used to disable adblock, but anymore I just give up and go away. They can all FOAD for all I care.


I won't go to a journalism site without NoScript or Focus, too painful without.


It kind of blows my mind that even real, serious journalism outlets cheapen their product like this

Got a NYT digital subscription to see if it was worth it, and I like it. Would be more likely to keep going if it extended to other publishers, and I could consistently access an ad-free, ad-blocker gate free experience.


I had to copy the text and paste it into Notepad to actually read the article.

April 30, 2017

A problematic trend is spreading like an epidemic on the web. In a desperate attempt to nudge users towards conversions like newsletter signups some websites are adding manipulative link text to their popup modals. These user-shaming labels are called manipulinks (a clever term coined by Steve Costello): they employ the practice of what is often referred to as confirmshaming — making users feel bad for opting out of an offer (logically, this practice might better be described as declineshaming).

These crappy designs request an email address. I enter abuse@theirwebdomain

Or when I see this overlay, I click the button in Chrome's URL bar to disable JavaScript via the extension called Quick JavaScript Switcher.


Beleaguered developers working for publishers of big bloated web pages have a hard time arguing with their boss when they're told to add another crappy JavaScript tracking script or bloated library to their pages. But when they’re making AMP pages, they can easily refuse, pointing out that the AMP rules don’t allow it. Google plays the bad cop for us, and it's a very valuable role. Sarah pointed this out on the panel we were on, and she was spot on.

That's an unfortunate reason to support a technology that, in my opinion, does not support the open web. But developers must take orders.



Yes, AMP pages load fast, but you don’t need AMP for fast-loading web pages. If you are a publisher and your web pages don’t load fast, the sane solution is to fix your fucking website so that pages load fast, not to throw your hands up in the air and implement AMP.

And publishers don't need Facebook's Instant Articles for fast-loading web pages.


You could do this yourself, but you won't. Or at least, people won't at scale. Perhaps in a world where AMP is wildly successful, it influences the "regular" web toward cleaning up its act.



jun 2, 2017 post : https://sonniesedge.co.uk/blog/a-day-without-javascript




That referenced https://www.wired.com/2015/11/i-turned-off-javascript-for-a-whole-week-and-it-was-glorious




Reddit's mobile web site fails to display content when JavaScript is disabled. Have to use their "i" version.

HN comment:

Reddit's mobile site is designed to be a bad experience to such a degree that it's comical. I use it everyday and still get confused wrt to basic functionality like what to click. It's also suspiciously slow in a way that Reddit proper never is.

Another HN comment:

Their new mobile version is pretty bad. I use their old mobile site and it's fast to load and easier to use. I hope they don't sunset it... https://i.reddit.com/

Another HN comment:

I very rarely load up reddit on mobile but did so this morning and noticed the exact same message and couldn't believe it. The selling feature they use for the mobile app on that message was that it was faster than the mobile site. I don't see why that needs to be the case - it seems the reason the mobile site is slow is because they force it to do client side rendering. Or at the very least, just that it's Javascript heavy. I'm not sure why reddit needs to be like that given the content.

Why? Because other sites have moved to all or heavy client-side JavaScript to display simple, text-based content. It's the cool, hip thing to do because it sounds modern when explaining the site redesign in an engineering blog post.

Yet Craigslist continues to chug along, being useful to millions of people while making millions of dollars of profit.

HN comment:

Kudos to reddit for not following the trend of "lets redesign the site just because we can" ethos. Not only did the product shift kill Digg, I also think it led to the earlier downfall of Slashdot. I may be dating myself, but I remember how each revision of Slashdot made it less usable for me. The "cleaner, minimalist, lots of whitespace" designs that were in vogue actually made it much harder to navigate comment threads quickly and see good content easily while avoiding the chaff. Even today I prefer to use the desktop version of Reddit on my phone, because I can just go through content threads a lot faster than compared to their mobile site.



The SEO folks are the same dopes who came up with the genius strategy of requiring 5-10 megabytes of privacy-intrusive CPU-intensive JavaScript on every page load that slows down websites. Now they come to their teams and say, “Our pages are too slow — we gotta move to AMP so our pages load fast.”

It's probably not only the "SEO folks" who advocate for web page cruft for whatever reasons. HN comment:

I doubt it was the SEO folks suggesting ads, they've known to prioritise page load time for a whole now. It's the business side of the company at a loss to find another way to make money. To be fair to them, it's still not really clear what the answer is. But I think we've established it isn't what we have now.

Free web content smothered with ads, trackers, etc. works for some websites that produce content at scale, like hundreds of posts per day. And they make heavy use of social media to promote their content with the hope that some of their low quality crap becomes popular, which creates a lot of page views on their websites. That equals revenue from advertising. Low quality content mills.