Sunday, April 06, 2008

Single Page Click Hassle

I wonder if web designers have ever considered to what extent the articles they post are abandoned by readers because of the practice of needlessly splitting articles into multiple pages. Sure, web sites frequently make available a link to view the article on a single page, or a link to a more printer-friendly page, but that doesn't really change much.

I suppose the reason for dividing an article into multiple pages is so that more advertisements can be flashed up to the reader, but I wonder if that really works. If a reader abandons the article after the first page, then there certainly is no further opportunity for advertisements on that article.

When I start reading an article on the Web, only to to have to click another link to continue reading, I usually stop and ask myself whether I really want to continue reading this article. Frequently, the answer is No, and frequently it has less to do with the quality or content of the article than it does with the hassle of extra clicks forward and then back to where I was when I started reading the piece. Seems silly, but there you have it. I have no idea how widespread this article-abandonment thing is, but I think it must be common.

Now, it's really no big deal to make extra clicks, or so you'd think. One could also keep an eye out for the single-page option up front and select it right off the bat, which would lessen the click hassle. You could also view every article you read on a new browser tab or window, thus eliminating the multiple clicks back to where you were, or you could use the Back button drop-down option to jump directly back to where you were.

Given these easy options to (partially) address the click hassle, why do I find the click hassle annoying enough to let it affect whether I continue reading an article? I don't know why. It just is. It reminds me of how important a fractional-second wait was to drafters working on networked workstations. The wait between button click and action was less than a second, but it was extremely annoying to them and considered a serious impediment to productivity by their management.

If any web designers happen to read these lines, may I suggest that articles of typical length be presented in full right up front. Reserve the multiple-page format for long articles, those that might extend beyond five (?) pages under the current scheme.

Surely there must be some way to present more ads while avoiding the click hassle. Ads might be changed as a function of having scrolled beyond a certain point in the article, or as a function of time. You might float a button somewhere that allows the reader to change the ads. I think I'd use such a button, maybe a lot. The instant I'd see some skinny chick modeling a message tee-shirt I'd click the button. Boom, just like that you've flashed up another ad that I might be more likely to actually click, and the sadistics that could derive from clickage of such a button might have marketing value.

OK, that's enough.

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