Welcome to the birth of a new Special Feature! Since I’ve already said that the reconstituted GMC isn’t going to depend too heavily on the old Special Features I thought I’d fudge a little by adding a new one, and what better time to do it than the start of a new year? Also, since my New Year’s resolution is to continue being cantankerous, it only makes sense to use it to kick off the new Special Feature I’m calling the Squeaky Wheel.
The simple fact is that I’m a proud curmudgeon. I like to spout off about things that annoy me, offer my opinion on matters that I’m completely unqualified to judge, and give unsolicited and questionable advice to anyone who comes along. But while I’m grumping and complaining maybe I can occasionally shed a little light into some dark corners.
Today I want to grumble about something that might affect a lot of people: the readability of websites. I’ll confess right up front that my eyes (along with a few other parts) aren’t what they used to be, but I have noticed over time that a lot more websites seem to have adopted a softer style that is harder to read. You might not have noticed but what used to be mostly sharp text on a contrasting background has gradually morphed into a style that features a lot of thinner, softer text that’s sometimes even sort of grayed-out. Of course users can always press CTRL+ to make it bigger, and the browser will remember it so it will be that way for you next time too. (A neat trick that you knew about, right?) But sometimes that will distort the page and hide some content, and it’s annoying to have to keep enlarging every new iffy website you run across.
When I recently redid the GMC I took a lot of time to choose a new theme that would have all the features I wanted while also allowing me a wide choice of fonts, because I was determined to make it as readable as possible. I then picked the boldest font and in a size that I thought would be very readable, and I think it turned out pretty well. I hope that’s true for everyone reading this but as for me — always tinkering — I still wasn’t completely satisfied, because even if the GMC looked pretty good there were a lot of other websites that didn’t. So I went one step further and discovered something that really improves readability, and I thought I’d pass it along for what it’s worth. I found a browser extension called Gray Font To Black Font. Below is how the GMC looks with and without the extension.*
Hopefully you can see the difference and on some websites it’s even more pronounced — remember I’ve already got the GMC pretty well set up even without the extension. Here’s a better example, from a website that’s always been problematic for me:
I should mention that this is a Firefox extension. I know a lot of folks use Chrome and it has a couple of similar extensions, but I could never get them to work very well when I was a Chrome user. A little history — after many years with Firefox I switched to Chrome a couple of years ago because Firefox had gotten too slow and sluggish. But recently I tried the new Firefox Quantum and not only was it faster but it also had some other things I liked. In addition, it seemed a little sharper and clearer than Chrome and it offered Gray Font To Black Font to make it look even better, so I happily became a Firefox user again.
If you want to try the extension yourself you should know one other thing about it. It works fine with 95% of websites, but you will occasionally see one that doesn’t seem to play nice with it. No problem because you can just enter the website’s URL as an exception in the extension’s ‘Options’ and it will be fine. And just for the record, I don’t have any connection to the extension’s author or get any kind of benefit from recommending it (or Firefox Quantum) except knowing that I’m passing along info about something that does what it says it will do. What more can you ask from a Squeaky Wheel?
* Background has changed since this was written – see comments below.