We've removed the reading time from articles

We've removed the reading time from all our articles, this is why

Up until this morning when you visited any of our articles, we would have shown you an estimated reading time. It looked something like this.

A screenshot of a white screen, at the top the text reads 'Written by Toby Osbourn', in a horizontal list under that it has a date of publication, the reading time, the word count, and the category of the post
How we used to display our reading time

We originally added this because we thought it would be useful to people, giving a quick indication of how much time is required to read the article. Our thinking being if someone has 2 minutes and opens up a 20 minute long article, this maybe isn’t the right time, or if they want a deep dive into something and come across a 1 minute article, it may not be the right fit.

But we’ve come to realise a few things that have lead us to remove the reading time. I wanted to share them here in case you are in the same boat.

This isn’t a call to arms for every website to remove them, as you’ll see later, we still do expose this information, just not at the top of the screen.

Here are the four reasons we think having a reading time wasn’t right for us, and may not be right for you;

  • It is ableist to tell someone how quickly we think they should read. Who are we to guess about how quickly someone can read, especially what can occasionally be highly technical articles. That is before we consider English may not be someone’s first language.
  • It was never accurate. Reading proficiency aside, it takes longer to read some code or technical descriptions than others, and due to what we write about, some parts of an article are skippable depending on your context.
  • We already show word count. When you buy a book you can tell how long or short it is based on page count and font size. Similarly you will know a 10,000 word article will take longer to read than a 300 word one.
  • It isn’t a reflection of how we use the web. When I visit an article and I want to know ahead of time how much I will need to invest in it, I will quickly scroll to either see the size of the scrollbar or just take in the entire page. I suspect many others do something similar.

We still set a reading time for Schema

Having said all that, our HTML includes some JSON+LD which describes the content for robots visiting the page, such as search engines.

Using the Schema structured data for Article, we can see an attribute timeRequired. We continue to set this because whilst we don’t think it is good for us to display this information, other services might think differently.

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