In today’s fast-paced digital world, attention spans are getting shorter, and users often have limited time to consume content. As a result, providing readers with an estimated reading time can be a valuable feature for any blog or content-based website.

Why having a read time for a blog post is important

  1. Managing User Expectations: By displaying the estimated read time, you set clear expectations for your readers. They can gauge the commitment required to consume your content and make informed decisions based on their available time. This transparency improves user experience and helps build trust with your audience.
  2. Time Management: Modern readers appreciate efficient time management. Providing a read time estimation enables them to plan their reading activities accordingly. They can allocate specific time slots for reading longer articles or save shorter ones for breaks. This feature empowers users to make better use of their limited time and encourages engagement with your content.
  3. Enhancing UX and Engagement: Including a read time encourages readers to start reading an article with confidence, knowing the approximate investment of time required. It helps eliminate the fear of stumbling upon long, time-consuming pieces without prior knowledge. This can result in increased engagement, reduced bounce rates, and higher overall satisfaction with your website.
  4. SEO Benefits: Search engines consider user engagement metrics when ranking websites. If visitors spend more time on your pages and engage with your content, search engines may interpret it as a positive signal, potentially boosting your website’s visibility in search results. Providing a read time can contribute to longer session durations and improved SEO performance.

Automatically generate a read time using Node.js

1import { load } from 'cheerio'
3function stripTags (html) {
4 return html.replace(/<[^>]+>/g, '')
6function getReadingTime(content, isHtml = false) {
7 const avgWordsPerMin = 200;
8 let contentToProcess = content;
10 if (isHtml) {
11 const $ = load(contentToProcess, null, false);
12 $('pre').remove();
13 contentToProcess = $.html();
14 contentToProcess = stripTags(contentToProcess);
15 }
17 const count = contentToProcess.match(/\w+/g).length;
18 return Math.ceil(count / avgWordsPerMin);

Let’s break down the implementation step by step:

  1. Import: We need the Cheerio library to parse HTML in Node.js. If you want to use this function in regular old JavaScript, you can adapt it and create an element on the DOM instead. To install Cheerio, you can run the following command npm i cheerio.
  2. Parameters: The getReadingTime function takes two parameters:
    content: The content of the article or blog post, either in plain text or HTML format.
    isHtml (optional): A boolean flag indicating whether the content is in HTML format. By default, it is set to false.
  3. HTML Processing: If the isHtml flag is set to true, the function uses the load function from Cheerio to parse the HTML content. It then removes any content inside <pre> tags as this doesn’t really count towards reading the blog. It then converts the HTML to plain text using the stripTags function.
  4. Word Count Calculation: The function uses a regular expression (/\w+/g) to split the processed content into an array of words. The match method is then used to count the number of words.
  5. Read Time Calculation: The average reading speed is assumed to be 200 words per minute (avgWordsPerMin). The function divides the word count by this average and rounds up using Math.ceil to get the estimated read time in minutes.

In conclusion, implementing read-time functionality in your blog or website can significantly enhance user experience, improve engagement, and help readers manage their time effectively. By providing readers with estimated read times, you empower them to make informed decisions and create a more engaging environment. With the Node.js code snippet provided, you can easily calculate the read time of your content and incorporate this valuable feature into your technical blog.