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MindRetrieve - an open source desktop search tool for your personal web

Wednesday, December 28, 2005

Keep Your Article in One Single Web Page

There is a style widely used in web publishing. It says people don't like to read long article, one should keep modem user in consideration that a long web page would result in slow download and so. If you have a long article to publish, break it down into several short sections and let user read it page by page.

I have arrived in a contrarian view. I think breaking a long article down into several pages is a hassle to the users. It is best to publish the entire article in one single page. The issue is in order to finish the article I need to click next page several times, every time there is a delay and it interrupts the momentum. Usually the delay is short, like one or two seconds. But it is a noticeable delay. Scrolling is seamless in comparison. For slow sites the delay is much worst. Some sites routinely take 10 seconds or more. That would feel like an episode ended in a cliffhanger and we have to wait for the next episode.

Is several short page a better layout than a long one? I actually prefer to have a long one. The scroll bar give a good indication of how far in the article I have progressed. The scroll wheel is very handy in navigation. I can also use the browser to search for a word that appears anywhere in the article. All these is better than arbitrary break an article into several parts and then leave only a narrow window to the user. The speed issue is a non-issue. Any browser should be able to render incrementally so that you can start reading as soon as any text arrives. Even my cellphone do this flawlessly.

In some case the multiple pages format backfire badly. I'm glad that Yahoo has a mobile version made for cellphone at http://mobile.yahoo.com/. I thought it would be great for reading email. Turns out the issue with cellphone data network is not just low bandwidth, every time when I click a link there would be a long delay before I can get any response. As Yahoo mobile break every screen into 15 lines or so, even the simplest email cost me multiple clicks to read though. The long delay between clicks make it plain unusable. I end up went back to the regular web interface. Even I have to scroll through tons of irrelevant stuff to get to the email body I still prefer it to the mobile version.

Of course my comment should not be generalized too far. I have tried to load an entire technical manual as a single web page (in my harddrive). The browser have noticeably delay to process a web page of this size. But I still keep the manual in this format for the ease of searching.


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