More text and fewer articles visible equals more pageviews

NZ’s own RWW reports that readers of the FT’s mobile Web app consume “about three times as many pages through the app as they are through the desktop in an average visit“. concludes in turn that the reason is that the the articles are in a single column in the web-app, while on the ordinary web page the articles are scattered across the page, so the eye is not distracted.

I agree, but would also add that the articles in the web app show a lot more article text than in the ordinary webpage, as I’ve shown below by annotating a screenshot from Drawar’s article.

The text lets the reader know whether it is worth finding out more by clicking the link, and the column format tells the reader exactly what to read.

This, to me, is one reason that the blog format has been so successful. It’s easy to scroll down, read one article at a time and then move off the site when you are done.

I’ve written about’s appalling redesign before, and not kindly. The site before that was pretty bad as well, but at least they had a single blog page with all of the text. Given the current state of the site I still do not visit, although I often will follow a link through Twitter.

The NBR site is pretty good on this score provided you ignore the stuff on the right and read the single column. They don’t post many articles so it is easy to keep up.

I wish would use this format, but before NBR gets too cocky I wish, again, that NBR would fix their @#$@#@ commenting system.

The thinking (single column is better, more text per article showing is better) makes it obvious why Scoop has always struggled to break through. If you think of links as unreadable then there is only one article to read on the snapshot below.

The AFR is getting better, certainly since the complete Flash-ridden dreck of a few years back. It seems readable, but click on any of the links and you’ll need to pay A$1140 per annum to read any more.

There is no discount for beng in New Zealand where the salience of AFR’s content is lower, and the price is still absurd in international terms.

The WSJ has long understood the value of single column reading, with the front page of the newspaper employing the technique for seemingly decades. Their website uses two columns, but provides plenty of text per article. I read it a lot, helped by an annual subscription which is tiny compared to the AFR’s extortion.

In summary this stuff is not that hard. A single or double column of articles, enough text showing so we know what it is about or can read the entire thing, and, obviously, great content.

A well-designed news site places the reader experience first as if the site is easy to read then readers will read more content on the site.

If designers and MBAs try to increase pageviews using the various tricks (multi-page articles, links not snippets, too much content visible) then readers may react by clicking some of them but in the long run they wil be confused and will simply go elsewhere.

It’s what Steve Jobs would do – so why not do it at your news site?

Published by Lance Wiggs


One reply on “More text and fewer articles visible equals more pageviews”

  1. Thanks for the post Lance – some good stuff there. and Scoop really are horrible websites.

    If you have information and you’ve spent the time setting up a site to share it with people and you WANT them to read it why not spend the time making the experience an enjoyable one? Surely their bounce rate must be horrific. Also a great colour scheme can really help with guiding the viewer around the page.

    It’s interesting to note the different styles between countries. I find the WSJ particularly difficult to navigate.

    My fav news site is the NZH.


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