Natasha asks: Ughhhhh Why do major media sites (Vanity fair, Entertainment Weekly etc) create paginated lists? I end up clicking through 25 times for the “top 25 American photographs.” The whole thing takes twice as it should (because of the flash loading?). Is it for ad revenue? Now I refuse to click through that shit because its inefficient and slow. Angry.
While it’s true that Vanity Fair’s website loads slowly, putting photos on multiple pages makes perfect sense — the only place you’ll find a dozen full-resolution images on a single page is blogs and porn. Slideshows are about reducing server load.
The underlying question, though, is more interesting: why spread content out over multiple pages on the web when you could just use one? Why would the New York Times put an article on three pages? Why do HowStuffWorks and About.com break out their articles into sections and make you click through from one section to the next? Why would you want to make a sign-up process have four screens when you could just collect everything on one page?
In web marketing, they call this “the funnel,” and the reasons for it go beyond the fact that they get to serve you a new ad every time you reload. It’s how they measure engagement, by looking at how many people click through to the next page. More clicking means a lower bounce rate (the percentage of people who look at the first page and then leave). More pageviews per visit. Longer average time on site.
Above and beyond slideshows, multi-page content is the norm. The only websites that really give you everything on one screen are blogs and wikipedia, both of which are frameworks meant to arrange things in a hierarchy that don’t play well with multiple-page articles. Go ahead, all ye tumblrs and wordpressists, try to break the framework you’ve been given and put a post on three separate pages. It won’t work.
One page is the new thing, and it’s only because we tumblr kids spend most of their time on the web reading user-generated content (like this!) that we’re so used to scrolling through large amounts of stuff on a single page.The rest of the web is concerned with limiting the amount of content on a single page, trying not to overwhelm its readership, and tracking how well that content performs.
The web is a business. I’d say that the future would be more content on one page as people get used to scrolling more, but the funnel is too important. The funnel is about controlling the user experience, and as much as you wish it was a free internet, it’s not. The solution isn’t a single page, it’s just better image viewing software. Until that day, what were you doing looking at a slideshow on VanityFair.com anyway?