I asked for information about having long articles in one Web page vs breaking them up into multiple pages. Lots of comments.  I also asked about doing some testing to see what effect pagination has, but got no information about that.

Summary here, replies below:

= A lot of people dislike multi-page articles because of the interruption of having to find the link, click, wait for the page transition and get back into the flow of the article. Personally, I get bored reading a long one-page article and find that the occasional click keeps me focused.

= Some people suggested a short first page with a link to the full article.

= Someone else pointed out that w/o a print-this-article feature, it's hard to print a copy to read on the train. It's also hard to save the article.

= More than one person pointed out that multi-page articles let you put more ads in front of the reader, which can be good or bad depending on a variety of factors.

= There are a few research links in the replies.

= Someone countered with another question: "How long should an article be before you break it up into more than one page?" Good question.

thanks                             -- hs


Replies:
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From: "Jasek, Christopher A. (LNG-DAY)" <[log in to unmask]>

Hi Hal,

Personally I dislike multi-page articles.  How does it increase readability... If you really do want to read it you have to keep clicking and it makes it difficult to print it out too.

I work on www.sciencedirect.com - lots of long articles and they are all single page.  We've never tested multi-page because it has never come up from users.  They don't mind scrolling if they want to read the article, but more often than not if they want to read it and it is long they will print it in PDF.  So it is important to make printing easy.  We have also focused on getting the top of the page to load quick so the user can begin reading... With long article you do not want the browser to wait to display the page until it has the whole things.  I think this is less of an issue these day than it was a number of years ago.

--Chris
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From: "Chontos, Alexis" <[log in to unmask]>

Hi, Hal,

Speaking as a webmaster, I, too, prefer to present information in smaller, neater chunks (as you suggest).

However, as a user of the web, I absolutely hate multi-page articles.  I very much prefer to see the entire article all on one giant web page.

I will be very interested to see the summary of the feedback that you receive.

Alexis Chontos
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From: Oliver Moran <[log in to unmask]>

You might try a third approach, too.  The first page shows the equivalent to the first page of a multi-page article with a link to "Read full article ..." showing the entire article.  This would allow readers to get a better idea of what a story is about but not commit themselves to it unless they were interested.

Can you share your results when they come back?

Oli
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From: "Richard Penn" <[log in to unmask]>

Definite disadvantage to multi-page: makes it very difficult to print it out to read on the train. Possible solution: show as multi-page initially, with a 'printable form' button.

   Dick Penn
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From: Robert Hanson <[log in to unmask]>

This is purely anecdotal, but:  When I see a multi-page article on the web, the first thing I look for is a "print this" button, which typically reformats the page into a single-page article with minimal ads.

Consider the human factors:

To move from page to page in a multi-page article, I have to find and click the "next page" link.  This is a relatively complex task, considering that most multi-page articles are full of ad content  cluster.  The action of searching for and clicking the "next page" link has nothing to do with what I'm really trying to accomplish, which is to read the article.  It could take several seconds to find the link, click it, and have the next page (with lots of ads again) load.  In that time, I may have forgotten some of the content I just read.

In a single-page article, I just use the scroll wheel on the mouse, an action which is almost instinctive and does not distract from reading the article.

It seems to me that if your intent is to present information to the reader, go with a single-page article.  If your intent is to get as many ads in front of the reader, go with a multi-page approach.
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From: [log in to unmask]


Hi Hal,

I ran into this exact problem at my last company which was a heavy content site.  In the end they decided to go for single page view after surveying audience members and editorial staff. Before the interviews, I did my own research. My research supported breaking up articles into multiple pages  but adding a link to view as one page.  This would accomodate both styles of reading.

A. Benefits of breaking up articles into multiple pages. (paginating)

- Each page will load faster.
- Fewer ads per page. More ad inventory overall.
- Improved visibility for related items box since it will not be scrolled out of sight.
- Related items can be page specific. More contextual information may be presented without overwhelming the user.
- After reading an article, it’s easier for a user to go back and locate a particular section of that article.
- Best format for using an article for research.  Readers can scan faster without losing their place from excessive scrolling.

B. Industry research on page length and paginating articles.

Usability.gov’s  Guidelines for Reading and Scanning
http://usability.gov/guidelines/readscan.html

The Efficiency and Preference Implications of Scrolling versus Paging when Information Seeking in Long Text Passages.
By Clark G. Parsons
http://www.jujapa.com/clark/cgp_diss.html

Page Length
Webstyle Guide, 2nd Edition
http://www.webstyleguide.com/page/length.html

I hope this is useful for you.

---Frances
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From: [log in to unmask]

Hi, Hal:
Pardon me for giving the classic answer "it depends." I must first say that I do not have any actual data, so this is just my opinion. I also enjoy multipage articles, but many of the sites that I use (NY Times, PC Magazine) use the multi-page approach to sell more advertisements.

Every redraw of the page serves up a different advertisement. And in many cases, it is annoying because the amount of text is only a few paragraphs, always "above the fold" as it were. In these cases, I would love to see more content, and would happily scroll down to read more. The amount of time it takes to redraw the page (even with a high speed connection) is significant and it does interupt my train of thought. Not to mention that with new ads, etc, you have to re-focus to find where you left off.

On the other hand, if the article is very long, like 10,000 words or something, it would be easy to loose your place if it were all presented as one very long scrolling document.

 So I feel like the question is this "How long should an article be before you break it up into more than one page?"
I don't know the answer to this question.

Matt Belge
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From: "Karen Whitley" <[log in to unmask]>

Hal,

Check out this Altertbox article about low-literacy users (more than you might imagine).

http://www.useit.com/alertbox/20050314.html

My suggestion is to show the first 2-3 paragraphs and include a text link to the full article. Readers will know if it's something they want to read and click full article. Then, you will have the entire article on one page. Clicking multiple pages is annoying to excellent readers.

I would also recommend a printer-friendly version or a pdf download.

Karen
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From: "Gart, Mitchell" <[log in to unmask]>
To: "Hal Shubin" <[log in to unmask]>

Personally my way of reading a long article that I find online is almost always to print it.  But maybe that's just me.

Breaking an article into multiple pages is OK, as long as there is a "printable page" link, or something similar, that lets the whole article go onto one page and then be printed as one.  There's nothing more annoying than wanting to print an article and having to go to 5 separate pages and print each one separately.

- Mitch Gart
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From: Howard Kiewe <[log in to unmask]>

I have no data on this topic, just my experience as a user. I prefer to have single-page versions of articles even if they are long, because: (1) I find it frustrating to wait for new pages to load after I click (2) sometimes I will save the article for off-line reference and this is much more laborious with multi-page articles.  To me, readability is a function of how well the material is written and organized and this is independent of whether or not an article is divided into separate pages.

But the A/B testing sounds like it could be interesting.

Howard


- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
Hal Shubin, Interaction Design, Inc.
617 489 6595
www.user.com
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