On the homepage of a weblog, when you’ve scrolled to the bottom of the recent posts displayed but before you get to the footer, what should you see?
Most commonly you’ll find a link for “previous entries” or “older entries”. A link that takes you to Page 2 of the site. And page 2 is always the same format as the homepage.
There are some unique dynamics to weblog design. You’re designing for three groups of people:
- Regular readers who check in daily, or near daily
- Familiar readers who check in occasionally
- New visitors
Regular readers tend to hang out at the top of the site or in the RSS feed. Since they are tracking with the weblog they are up to date with what’s been written lately. In fact, many regular readers may not even visit the site and read only from their feed reader.
Familiar readers who check in occasionally are likely to only peruse and read what’s on the homepage. They come to the site, look to see what’s new that they haven’t seen since last time, and then move on.
New readers are actually most likely showing up for the first time onto a permalink page because they got to your site via a link or a search result to something specific. From there, if they like what they’ve read, they’re likely to read more articles or click to the home page and see what is happening.
And so, when someone (who is most likely a new visitor) has scrolled to the bottom of the recent posts on the homepage, before they get to the footer what should they see?
Is a link to Page 2 the best option? I don’t know; the advantages and disadvantages vary based on the site.
Advantages of having a link to Page 2:
- It’s conventional: Lots and lots of sites use it.
- It’s familiar: Because it’s conventional.
- It’s simple: There is only one option: If you want more, click here. If not, see you later alligator.
- You stay in the same context: The format of page 2 is the same as page 1 which means the reader is not changing contexts from reading to lists to reading again.
Disadvantages of having a link to Page 2:
On this site I post dozens of links to every one article. If someone is scrolling through page by page it means they are primarily scrolling through lists of links. And while that’s cool, links are not the premier feature of this site. Though they are the most common type of post, they’re not the most valuable.
Some of the work I am most proud of may not have been in the past few weeks or even months. Someone browsing page by page may never get to what I am most proud of.
What Others are Doing
I wanted to see how other weblogs handle pagination navigation. I took screenshots of the bottom of the homepage of 31 different weblogs to compare how they’ve implemented pagination navigation, if they’ve implemented it at all.
I chose sites that are run as a traditional blog, meaning the most recent posts are at the top of the page and usually where several posts are shown at once. I also chose sites that are published by people who (most likely) have thought through this sort of thing for their site.
Of the 31 sites, 19 had some sort of “older entries” style pagination navigation and 12 had something else.
Weblogs with pagination navigation: Kottke.org, Jason Santa Maria, TechCrunch, Jeffery Zeldman’s Daily Report, dooce, Seth Godin, Andy Ihnatko, 43 Folders, Cameron Moll, Panic Blog, Liz Danzico, The Hickensian, Simplebits, The Brooks Review, I Love Typography, swissmiss, This is my next…, Waxy.org, and 37signals.
Weblogs with something other than pagination navigation:
- Marco.org: A list of all archives by month
- Subtraction: A list of all categories
- Shaun Inman: A list of all categories and all archives by month
- Ignore the Code: Infinite scrolling
- Daring Fireball: Full text of the two most recent articles that were not written in the past 7 days
- Airbag Industries, Kevin Kelly, and Rands in Repose: Nothing
- Veerle’s Blog: Featured article and recommended categories
- Zen Habits, Chris Bowler: Link to full archives list
- Paul Stamatiou: List of favorite articles
Trying Something New
Since the inception of this site I’ve had the common link to Page 2. I am now testing something new here: I replaced the link to Page 2 with links to recent articles, interviews, and reviews instead. I’ve also increased the number of articles and links that appear on the home page to 25 total.
The goal is to offer the best choice for the reader, based on what I, as the publisher of my site, consider to be the most valuable. Is a link to Page 2 the best way for a reader to continue exploring my site, or would they be better served by discovering the articles I’ve written and am most proud of? 1
Honestly, I’m not sure yet. Though I do think that if I only ever wrote articles it may be a different answer.
- Some readers have written in to suggest that I offer a link to Page 2 as well as a link to recent articles, reviews, and interviews. I somewhat like this idea, but my biggest hesitancy is that it may present too many options. When a user is presented with too many choices they will likely chose none. In fact, I already am feeling like having 3 links at the bottom of the page is too many. But at least they are 3 links of the same type. ↵