Nicole Fenton is the coauthor of Nicely Said. She reads and writes in Brooklyn.

On Longform

I’ve always loved the written word, but it wasn’t until last March that I really got into reading longform on the web. I dove into Readmill for ebooks, along with Readability and Pocket for articles. I learned that I love highlighting text and talking about books with friends. And just one year later, I feel more confident as a reader and a bit calmer as a human. Books and long articles are a great relief from the hurried nature of the otherwebs.

With all these changes and related feelings, I’ve started focusing on “reading experiences” over “user experiences.” It’s easier for me to get concrete as a writer and editor if I focus on thinking like a reader. This means reading my own work over and over again on different screens and in different scenarios. To explore and expand on ideas I’m working through, I wrote a long piece about longform for Web Standards Sherpa.


People are reading on screens. According to the OPA study, at least a third of tablet owners pay for content from magazines, books and newspapers. Much of this content can be considered “longform,” which is anything over 1,500 words. These pieces are longer than email newsletters and press clips. They’re neither bite-sized nor book-sized, but they deserve the same sort of uninterrupted attention you’d give a reader in a bookstore or library.

Today’s web designers and writers have to accommodate a variety of devices and text formats. So what can we do to embrace this shifting landscape of content and devices? The answer is deceptively simple: make readers comfortable, no matter what they’re reading or what device they use.


If you’re publishing text on the web, I hope you find the article enjoyable and useful. Long live the long ones.