Why are content-focused websites so hard to read?

Brent Simmons made the mistake of going to a website centered around text because he wanted to read said text. The problem isn’t the text or content it self — it’s often quite good — but rather all the junk that surrounds text and content: annoying ads, social sharing buttons, too many extraneous features and links and images to other content on a website. It’s nothing like reading a magazine or book, which let the content speak for itself.

Simmons recounts the horror that he saw:

I couldn’t hit the Reader button in Safari fast enough. In fact, I couldn’t hit it at all, so stunned was I by the flickering colorful circus the page presented. It was like angry fruit salad on meth.

I was there because I just wanted to read something. Words. Black text on a white background, more-or-less. And what I saw — at a professional publication, a site with the purpose of giving people something good to read — was just about the farthest thing from readable.

If you have a website focused on content — especially journalism and information — why do you make it so hard for people to read your content? The answer is that you shouldn’t.