It’s a problem that all internet users face from time to time. I, seemingly incapable of reading anything but a computer screen, face this problem all the time.
The problem is essentially this: page views are what determines advertising rates on the internet. The more page views a website has, the more they can charge advertisers. Thus they have a perverse incentive to stretch even the smallest article over many pages.
I loathe this practice, and as a consequence I’ve thought about it quite a lot, and so I’m here to offer the internet some salient advice on the topic.
- Paginate responsibly. I offer for you consideration, a list of the top 25 band logos of all time. As the rather famous Jason Kottke prefaced his link to the site, only offering one image per page is absurd. Surely it’ll give you a massive number of page views for those who are willing to click all the way through, but you also risk a massive number of people quiting after three clicks.
- Make a single page view available. This strike me as a reader as absolutely required, but I’m appalled by the hordes of respectable sites that refrain from doing so.
- If I must, I’ll use “Print View.” This is a double loss for most publisher, who (thankfully) refrain from putting an ads on their printable page. Unfortunately, these views are also ugly and unoptimized for screen reading (that is, if they were optimized for reading at all).
- I’ll leave if it’s too hard. If you offer a single page view, you’re only half way there. You also need to make it easy to find. Putting it at the top of the page is probably best, putting it at the bottom of the page makes sense. Whatever you do, don’t hide it or I’m apt to give up on reading your content entirely.
If someone understands how to paginate on the web, it’s the New York Times. Not only do they offer a single-page view, and not only is there a good amount of line-spacing, but they’ve made the button easy to find. Right at the top of every single paginated article (and right to the right of this text) they have a convenient “Single Page” link for me to click before I even start reading.
Another, but different, style is offered by The Weekly Standard. The conservative weekly’s website could perhaps use a face lift, but their pagination policy’s sensible. Though the don’t offer a simple single page view, they never extend an article past page two. The effect of this is that though a reader must “turn” the page, even for long articles you don’t have to “turn the page” 24 times.
Also of note is an online “magazine” I love, Slate. Because I’ve confessed to being a fan, I can and will now browbeat them a bit. You should know that the average Slate article is one or two pages long. Now consider this: after the first page, right by the pagination links they offer a “single page view” that snaps to after the end of page one. This policy is more sensible than the one in use at The New Yorker (where the “single page” link in the same position takes you to the top of the single page view), but it’s flawed. After all, for a two page article — again, Slate’s average length — this has essentially the same effect as click onto page two. If articles were routinely three or more pages long, this would make sense. But as an avid reader I feel confident in saying that this is rarely the case.
Surely it’s hard to get it right, this choice between pageviews and reader satisfaction. Most websites do an admirable job. But that doesn’t mean I won’t still be a little bitter that they aren’t putting my desires first.