Don't hide your scannable content

Scanning of text is something every user does when he or she looks at a website. That's why I find it so annoying when websites try to hide their content purely for design purposes.

Here's an example from Webwereld, a dutch technology news site. When I normally visit I usually go there from a link in their RSS feed. If I've read the article I use the menu on the right to check out if there are any new news articles or use it to go to a different article.

Screenshot webwereld.nl

However when you look closely you'll notice that some titles aren't displayed in full but have three dots (…) at the end. To read the title you have to hover over it with your mouse. The browser will display a small tool-tip with the full title. When you're just scanning a page this takes a lot of time and most users just don't take the time to do this and probably won't click the link either.

The only reason I can think of they did this is because the designer didn't like the look of it. Lists with different length titles look cluttered compared to ones where every title is only a single line long. In my opinion however aesthetics should never be placed above usability when designing a website.

You can probably spot another problem with this solution because some titles are still longer than a single line. I use firefox in linux and probably haven't got the font they specified in their code but users who've set their font size larger than normal will also suffer from this problem.

Relying on this type of behaviour just doesn't work when designing a website because you've got absolutely no control over a users browser and personal preferences. Every design should have some flexibility built into it to make it more robust under varying circumstances.

Conclusion

Only showing part of a title is similar to using nondescriptive or nonsensical words in a link description, something which I will be discussing more extensively in an upcoming article. When scanning a page for information users in general don't click links if they aren't immediately apparent what they're about. My advise would be to avoid these kinds of problems and just use a descriptive title.

Lastely web designs should be robust. Everything can scale on a web page and it's better to think of this behaviour before your design is built than have it fall apart like a house of cards when it's to late.

Categorieën: web annoyances