Applied to news, the web doesn’t suffer from one, but three flaws. Let’s call these the Rectangle, the Bottleneck, and the Diversion. These flaws got built into the system from the very beginning and, now, their impact has become harder to deal with. For new sites, these unforeseen aftereffects have grown to become real obstacles to reader engagement and monetization.
Let’s have a closer look.
1. The Rectangle issue.
This is the main absurdity in internet design. It goes back to the web’s early days: a text tool, brilliantly designed to organize scattered pieces of information — that was Tim Berners-Lee’s 1989 original work. Understandably, he used the page as his metaphoric vector; that was the world he lived lived in. For news, since journalists controlled how the concept got implemented, the paper mentality, and even the vocabulary percolated down to the young generation of web designers. They still refer to “the fold”, pretty obvious for a newspaper (better have your story above the fold than below). On the web, the fold points to the part of the screen below the first scroll. This brings us to the main contradiction.
I’m writing this on a 13 inches MacBook. OK, I have attached to it a 24″ Apple Cinema Display to allow multiple windows, but, for a simple measurement, let’s stick to the realistic 13″.
For a selected list of websites, here are the numbers of scrolls required to go to the bottom of the home page:
Graphically, it looks like this :
Well, there are many theories about the size of scrolls. Advocates of long pages pitch the following advantages: better referencing; more impressions for banners, more transverse navigation. Opponents retort: for referencing, you don’t fool Google for too long by serving large chunks of your site over and over. For ads and for transversality, suffice it to say you lose readers real fast if they need to scroll down; the probability for a banner to be viewed decreases exponentially: 10 scrolls divide the probability by 100 or more. As discussed in an earlier Monday Note (see Measuring time spent on a web page ), a full 24% of all banners are not seen at all; a placement on the footer rates as low as 10% of what the header gets. More