User Experiences: Pageviews And You

For exampleLet us geek out a bit and discuss the absolutely fascinating and sexy topic of pagination. There’s an excellent colloquium on the subject going on over at MetaFilter which you should definitely read, but I also have some thoughts and am curious about yours. Mine are somewhat mixed.

One of the things that’s most important to me about this site is that we try (most days) not to insult anyone’s intelligence (too much). We’re not deliberately SEO-baity. We don’t necessarily feel like we have to do a Famous Golfer story just because everyone else is and we might score a couple of hits from the search engines if we do. We’ll talk about anything, but only if we’re genuinely interested in it or have a compelling angle on it. (Let’s pat ourselves on the back right now!)

The fact is, however, this is a business, which is dependent on readers and traffic and pageviews. And as resistant as we are to being deliberately grabby for traffic, we need to grow the site to make it more attractive to advertisers and investors and such. It’s a line we try to stay on the right side of, but there are commercial realities to which we are not immune. David Cho might kill me for saying this, but I’d be very happy to see a site stripped completely of social networking appeals. There’s something that feels kind of cheap about it? But again, that’s just me. It’s probably good that I don’t get the only vote.

So, pagination: There is nothing that makes me feel less valued as a reader than seeing an article unnecessarily spread out over four or five pages in hopes of getting a few extra clicks. It is both annoying and insulting, and we’ve done our best to avoid that. If we start doing cheap galleries of celebrities’ drunkest naked moments, you should be aware that we’ve got our eyes on the bottom line and are not thinking of you. (Unless they’re really amazing drunken naked moments, drunken naked moments which speak to the unique times in which we live and convey the sense of confusion and change in a way that no non-gallery post could so do; in that case we’re going to gallery the shit out of those things.)

However: Sometimes articles are long. (For example.) As averse as I generally am to busting things up, I am also someone whose attention is easily diverted, and the option of having shorter chunks of a whole work makes it more likely that I’ll be able to read everything in a post. (Those of you who read the single-page version of that conversation very likely missed the part where a certain editor’s hotness was discussed, simply because it was buried in the back.)

There is also the question of image-heavy items. We all love the annotated White House Flickr feed, but there have indeed been times where the sheer number of people trying to pull the large number of images in those posts has actually crashed our server. Which means everyone loses!

One of the things we’ve insisted upon is single page view option for those that want it. It seemed to have worked just fine, and we’ll use it in the future. Don’t be worried that we’re now going to chop up every little thing in the endless pursuit of pageviews, but there are definitely longer pieces we want to do in which we’ll provide both choices. I think this is a pretty fair compromise, as compromises go, but I know that this is an issue which raises inexplicable passions in some people, so I’m perfectly willing to hear what you think about the whole thing.