Context for Quantity in Online Reading

In 2014 I wrote about the problem of ‘quantity perception’ that many online reading interfaces present. Here’s an excerpt:

Many formats (or interfaces) through which online copy is delivered make judging the amount of content difficult. Simply put, indicators of quantity (or length) are vague and inconsistent. In many cases, the scroll bar is our most commonly available point of reference…

I feel largely the same way as I did in 2014—most online reading interfaces obscure quantity from the audience (some intentionally so). Instapaper has become much more helpful, showing both the amount of estimated reading time as well as reading time remaining for articles you haven’t finished. Still, they are beholden to the scrollbar for feedback on progress while reading.


One site that has surprised me repeatedly with their online reading experience is Bloomberg. While they still rely heavily on distracting, clickbait-ish techniques, they do a great job of subtly, but clearly showing the reader how far they have progressed through the article. Good stuff.

Unfortunately, the human brain isn’t designed to watch video and read at the same time1, so Bloomberg is decreasing the reader’s ability to consume the content, but hey, progress is progress.

1. You can read more about the myth of multi-tasking in my post about harnessing productivity.

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