If anything is fad/hype-sensitive, it's the overall design of front-end/web design blogs/portfolio sites. Remember a couple of years ago, the one-pagers stating just some links to social media websites? That didn't last very long, did it? Since a year or so a new trend has surfaced, one you'll often find on web development blogs and which is often being sold as a usability/UX improvement. Well, I'm not really buying it.
I'm talking about the seemingly under-designed, almost white-label, single-column blogs featuring over-sized fonts and excessive white space. To give you an idea, I ran into the filament blog yesterday which is following this trend to the letter, though zeldman.com probably takes you closer to the source of this hype.
It's not that I don't understand where this is coming from. Blogging takes a lot of time and effort, so maintaining the code and design of your website on top of that can be a little daunting. These type of designs are naturally responsive (apart from a collapsing main navigation and maybe some footer styling), they are pretty browser-proof and they are "flat", which is all the rage. The bigger fonts are needed to fill the freed space by leaving out all kinds of sidebars, but that's where it gets tricky. Somehow, in an attempt to mask all these practical design choices, this is all supposed to make it easier for the reader to actually read the text.
Well, not so for me. I'm on a 27" screen here and I often feel claustrophobic looking at these blogs. I never have my browser full-screen so I usually see only two or three paragraphs max. A fierce scroll shoots me deep into the page without any form of context. Skipping around paragraphs involves a lot of scrolling and a lot of feeling lost. I can never really settle down while reading an article because before I know it I'm past the first two paragraphs and I need to start scrolling down again. Pages go on forever and without a good overview this makes me nervous. Images inserted into the text only make it worse, as they once again diminish the available content on a single page.
One thing to take into account when trying to sell these types of design as "better for readability" is that blog posts aren't the same as stories or books (though I understand why bloggers like to think differently). People often skip through our texts. If one paragraph isn't interesting enough (or simply too predictable), it will be skipped and they will jump to the next. People are looking for information and/or opinions, more often than not skimming texts in order to find what they need. Big fonts and less content on a single screen are only a hindrance.
Zooming out (control + '-') does help in most cases but it makes for really small websites on my 27" screen, to the point where it just looks ludicrous. I know this is just the opinion of one guy but I truly hope this fad disappears soon. I can also assure you I won't be participating in this trend. I may have flattened my design recently, but the 13px base font remains and the columns will continue to exist too.