When Crabby Old Lady first started Time Goes By, she read the people on her blogroll every day. It was easy then with only about ten links and the list grew slowly as she gradually found good, strong blogs by people older than 50.
There are more than 60 links now along with a stored list of new ones Crabby hasn’t had time to post yet - not to mention the 30 or so on the Honorary Older Bloggers list – and she has another, unpublished “favorites” list of bloggers that she likes to visit regularly too.
And there are always more blogs to read as Crabby follows interesting links. Well, you know how it goes; keep clicking and soon you're in new territory, lost among all manner of interesting stuff.
She’s reading as fast as she can, but Crabby lately finds herself skipping some blogs because they are too hard to read. Old eyes are different from young ones - they tire more easily and don’t function as critically as young eyes. But there are easy adjustments bloggers can make to their sites so that older people can enjoy them too:
Entry Date: Unless there is a photograph or other image at the top of a post, all blog entries look alike when the page loads – words, words, words - and Crabby feels cheated when she gets to sentence three or four and realizes she’s already read and maybe even commented on the post.
So those dates at the bottom of an entry aren’t much help. Better to have them at the top since Crabby usually knows about how long it’s been since she last visited.
Short Paragraphs: Crabby is sure you know that screens flicker and eyes, even young ones, tire faster reading on a screen than on a paper page. It is impossible to read paragraphs that go on and on without breaks.
Crabby first realized this when she was managing editor at cbsnews.com in 1996 and early on, she made a New Rule: no paragraphs longer than six or seven lines for ease of reading. She would be a less crabby blog reader if she could as easily enforce this rule for the entire blogosphere.
Line spaces: It’s not enough to just start a new indented line for a new paragraph. It is necessary to leave a line space between each paragraph. Puh-leeze do this; it takes only one additional tap on the “enter” key. It hurts way too much to read long blocks of unbroken text.
No Horizontal Scrolling: You’ve been to those blogs where you need to scroll left and right to read each line. Crabby doesn’t do it anymore and she knows she’s missing some good stuff, but it’s too much to ask readers to do this. Text columns should be no more than 500 pixels wide, max. 400 is better.
Background Colors: For old eyes, reading light-colored text on a dark background is like trying to read without a lamp at dusk. [Younger readers who don’t know what Crabby is talking about, give it a few years and trust her for now.] And anyway, dark backgrounds stopped being “kewl” in about 1998.
Color Combinations: As eyes age, they have trouble distinguishing between red and orange, between blue and green, and between certain shades of gray and black, particularly when they are near one another. So it is not a good idea, if you value older readers, to use those combinations for background and text.
Few older people, for example, can easily distinguish green text on a light blue background. Too much squinting involved.
Unidentified Links: In the past few months, a new link style has erupted that is growing like fungus. It is the practice of posting unidentified links. It usually appears thusly:
“Great story here. Also, don’t miss this and this.”
Oh, yeah? If it’s so great, tell Crabby what it is and why it’s so great. At best, this practice is lazy blogging. At worst, you waste a reader’s time following a link she’s already seen or is not interested in. Trust in otherwise friendly bloggers goes only so far with Crabby and doesn’t include lazy linking.
Crabby would be most grateful to any bloggers who would, if needed, make a course correction with any of the above suggestions. It could be that you don’t care about older readers and that’s fine, but these web best practices work just as well for younger readers too.
Crabby Old Lady thanks you for your attention.