IA for beginners: long pages work.

Long pages work. Just look at Wikipedia. In the 90s, we had a fashion where websites would cut up an article into 6 pages, 2 paragraphs per page, to get more page impressions. Luckily these days advertising runs on Pay Per Click more than Pay Per View (thanks Google!), so that practice is going away. But still, people seem to have a tendency to cut up good content, and often, they shouldn’t.

Look at this page for example. Over 100 comments, and what’s wrong with showing them all on one page? Sure, the page text is 116 KB, but that’s not too bad. And it’s compressed, so it’s really just 21 KB, which is fine and fast even for a dialup.

What it does is that it lets people scan over the conversation, scrolling, and get to the end and contribute their comment. If I were to cut those long comment strings in pieces, the experience would be worse.

Scrolling works. Long pages work. Anything else tends to be informationarchitecturitis (which I define as “the practice of adding too much structure when it’s not needed and even gets in the way”).

6 thoughts on “IA for beginners: long pages work.

  1. It also works better with keyboard scrolling – pgdn or apple+arrow keys jumps directly to the foot of a longer page without needing to scroll, which is much more effective than clicking and loading. Enabling such long pages was the whole purpose of the #fragment identifier in URLs, so this stuff goes right back to the original design of the web.

  2. I also disapprove of articles that are broken over multiple pages for no good reason.
    The good news is that can be fixed: you can write Greasemonkey scripts for the sites that you care about, which loads the next pages, extracts the body and injects it into the first page.
    I’ve done that for a couple of sites (IGN, ArsTechnica, ACMQueue) and more are available on http://userscripts.org.

  3. We’re talking about articles and other information content, right? The work done to date on this topic indicates that the answer very much depends. If your visitors are looking to do some reading and have found their way to some good content then the answer is probably yes – the long page works, but only if it’s well written and clearly structured.

    Good navigation, visual structure, and content make or break it. I’ve been involved in user research where the participant says “I don’t like scrolling” but what they really mean is that they don’t like struggling because the information sucks and the page is impossible to scan.

    If we’re talking about something like a home page the same principles apply, but you better believe the stuff on the top is going to get clicked through first – especially when the navigation is poor and nothing stands out. They’ll click the stuff on the top first and if you’re lucky they’ll come back.

    There are lots of good articles on this topic – read more than one and form your own ideas – then watch someone try to use your app/product.
    Some additional reading:

  4. Well, it depends. As for data, yes. But reading a long _story_ 20 pages long just makes the reader tired. Web is a fast medium. No matter how long your page is, they’ll spend as much time as they think it’s worth for your content. Not a second more.

    So, long pages probably work, but concise composition is still unevitable and necessary for good web experience.

  5. I’ve been told over and over that long pages don’t work. Notoriously recalcitrant, I persist in publishing them, often arcane, technical or dense material.

    20-25% of my 5,000+ daily visitors spend an hour or more on site. The average visit is over 6 minutes.
    ’nuff said.

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