Reading websites on phones or tablets…

By | May 6, 2019
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Do you use a phone or tablet (say an iPad or one of the other types)?

I do.  But what do you use it for?  Most people I know who use one use it for reading things on the web.  They might well use it for other things as well (I mentioned using it as a SatNav last time).  But I find it really handy being able to check the news, Formula 1 results or read about whatever’s caught my fancy on wikipedia – without having to go and sit at my PC.

The only snag is, my phone’s quite small.  That’s the point of it, I suppose – it fits neatly into my pocket.  But some websites aren’t designed very well for small screens so you end up with big blank areas at the side and the writing squeezed into a narrow column on part of the screen – making it harder or more fiddly to read.  

(This tends to be particularly true where a website doesn’t have a version made specially for phones or tablets, so you’re seeing the version designed for desktop PCs.)

Luckily there are a few tricks that can help.

The simplest one is to turn your tablet or phone on its side, so you have a wide screen.  It isn’t ideal because you won’t get many lines of text on the screen as it means it isn’t very tall, but it can make the writing itself a bit bigger and easier to read.

Next you could try zooming in.  The usual way to zoom in is to put two fingers on the screen and pull them apart, like you’re stretching the screen.  It can be hard to get it just right, though and there’s another way you might not know about.

If you want a particular chunk of text to fit the screen, you can double tap on it.  That’s tap once, then tap again straight away. It should automatically zoom so that the text fits perfectly into the width of your screen, so no space is wasted, but nothing disappears off the edge.  

Double-tapping again zooms back out again.

It can be really handy, especially on a page where there are several chunks of text – you double tap on the one you want to read, it fills the screen, then when you’ve finished, if you want to read the rest of the page, double tap again to get back to the start and then double tap on the next chunk of text you want to read.

Just make sure you avoid any links when you’re doing it, or it might think you’re tapping on the link.

The other trick that’s worth remembering is checking in the App Store (if you have an iPad or iPhone) or Google’s Play Store (if you have an Android phone or tablet) to see if there’s an app version of that particular website.  Sometimes these are designed to work much better on the device you’re using.

Not always – sometimes I’ve found them frustrating and ended up deleting them and going back to just using the website!  But it’s worth checking – the layout on the screen should be better designed for the kind of device you’re using that way.

Anyway, if you find reading all the websites you use easy, you can ignore this – maybe keep the ideas at the back of your mind in case you ever come across sites that aren’t so well designed. But if you ever do have trouble with reading websites, have a look through these ideas and see if any would help.

3 thoughts on “Reading websites on phones or tablets…

  1. Eryl Bassett

    Thanks for all the tips – but the “double tap”, a potentially useful one, doesn’t seem to work on my two Android tablets. Is it possible that this works only on iPads? Or maybe the display settings can be fixed to enable double taps. I’ve tried searching the settings for “double tap” but with no luck.

  2. Tim Wakeling Post author

    it definitely can work on Android – I use it on my Android phone. It doesn’t work so well on all websites, though, so it could be that the particular site you’re trying it on won’t let it work.
    I’ve just had a quick check – quite a lot of the most popular websites are already designed for mobile and since they think the text is already set the right size, it won’t let you do this. It tends to be more useful on websites run by smaller organisations – local clubs and so on that don’t have such fancy websites.
    If you want to try it out, here’s one that it definitely works on (as long as they don’t update their website after I write this!):
    If you go to that one, then double tap on a big chunk of text in one of the articles, it should zoom in to the right amount.
    Hope that helps

    1. Eryl Bassett

      Thanks very much, Tim. Yes, the “double tap” works exactly as you describe on that site – so I presume it’s a question of what the site allows. Let’s hope enabling the tapping becomes more prevalent.


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