Recently I've seen some sites that tell how much time it takes you to red an article on it, most notably the incredible medium.com (which I consider master of UX).

I have two questions rerading this feature:

  • Is it considered a good feature for all types of article-based websites? I mean, if a site is known for having long articles written on it, will it still encourage readers (who already expect long reading time) to go on reading, or this is only useful for medium-size sites.

  • How is that time calculated? is it based on word count? although I still like this feature so much, it mostly takes more time than told, perhaps due to English not being my native language. So to recoin the question let's say: how should this time be calculated to give a good use experience?

2 Answers 2


As per Wiki http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Words_per_minute , an average user can read 250-300 wpm, which can give a fair indication of how long it takes to read an article.

But I don't think accuracy of this figure matters a great deal. I think this is just an indicative figure to tell the user

-- how much text is going to be downloaded (waiting time before he can start reading)

-- to prepare himself/herself for how much time they need to spare for reading this. It could alter their decision of whether to click on that article link or not

-- Title and 'Time to read' information can help user in setting right expectation about what to expect from the article. For example, if the title says 'Titanic Movie Review' and 'Time to read' says '2 minute read' will be set different expectations if the title says 'Titanic Movie Review' and 'Time to read' says '10 minute read '

  • 33 wpm comes from the wrong part of the article you cite. The article talks about 250-300 wpm when reading prose and gives 33 wpm for typing alphanumerics.
    – NonNumeric
    Oct 14, 2013 at 0:46
  • Currently the article gives a reading speed of 184±29 wpm across 17 different languages and 228 ±30 wpm for English. This tallies with the usual range for reading English which is 200-250 wpm.
    – tell
    Oct 31, 2022 at 10:16
  • ...so basically 3 to 5 words per second.
    – ashleedawg
    Nov 29, 2022 at 14:40

Honestly? I think that 'time to read', especially on shorter texts, is silly and almost entirely useless in the absence of personalization. It's a fun and sometimes useful feature on things like the newer Kindles, which learn your reading speed and give you an estimate of how long it'll take you to finish reading a book/article. But without personalization, 'time to read' is just a glorified word count; in fact, a word count would probably be more useful to the reader. I read at about 850wpm; assuming the 'time to read' feature uses the oft-cited metric of 300wpm average adult reading speed, the estimates that I'm given are not only wildly inaccurate and hence useless, they feel almost patronizing.

Let's say we did have some way of obtaining personalized reading speeds, though. Maybe a browser setting or something. In that case 'time to read' could be relevant - but only if the user is interested in making use of that information (which not all users are!): the most obvious example I can think of right now is if the user has limited time available and wants to find articles that will fit within that time frame. In other cases it might seem out of place or even create pressure in the user to pick shorter articles - which might see them leaving your site after a shorter period of time. So my answer to your first question is 'no, it depends'.

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