The success of web based services like Readability, Pocket (or Read It Later) and Instapaper have proved that people prefer reading web pages in a clutter-free environment – one that is devoid of advertisements, widgets, social buttons and everything else that distracts the eye.

Even the latest version of Apple Safari browser has Readability like features built-in – see the demo above – to help people enjoy web pages in a more beautiful layout.

Improve the Reading Experience in WordPress

It will obviously be difficult for web publishers to switch to an ad-free layout, we all have families to feed, but what most of us can do is offer an alternate “comfortable” view should anyone wish to read our stories in a clutter-free layout.

I have been experimenting something similar on my WordPress blog for the past few weeks and some visitors do prefer this alternate view especially for reading longer stories like these. If you haven’t had a chance to try the reading view on Digital Inspiration yet, open any article page – like this one – and click the book icon at the top.

How to Create a Couch Mode for your Blog

If you would like to have something similar for your (self hosted) WordPress blog, here are the steps involved (sorry, but they are slightly geeky):

Step 1: Open your WordPress dashboard and create a new Page under Pages – > Add New.

Step 2: Give the page a title (like “Reader Friendly”), set the page URL (slug) as “read” and save the changes. You don’t have to put anything in the body of the page.

Step 3: Open the WordPress .htaccess file and add the following line of code at the top.

RewriteRule ^read/([0-9]+)/?$ /read/?u=$1 [QSA,L]

Step 4: Next download the page-read.php.txt file to your WordPress templates folder and then rename this file to page-read.php. The template uses the rel=canonical tag so even if someone links to the reader-friendly version of your blog, the Google Juice will still get passed to the original version.

Step 5: We are done creating a reader-friendly version of the blog. Now all we need to do is create a link in the blog that visitors can click to switch to the reader-friendly layout. Open the single.php file and add the following code somewhere near the title.

<a href="/read/<?php the_ID(); ?>/">Read story without the clutter</a>

If you have trouble implementing this, let me know in the comments. Good luck!

Also see: Essential Commands for WordPress Users