Sometimes you have to draw the line.
I recently drew that line after a visit to Cnet's web developer site, Builder.com.
I was reading a pretty funny article about the overuse of buzzwords in the computer industry, when it hit me how many times I was clicking on a 'next' button. The article turned out to be over 9 pages long!!
The thing that really annoyed me about them breaking up this article was that some of the pages where only two paragraphs long, then click, onto the next page for another three paragraphs, and so on.
I would think that a site that preaches good design practices would follow its own advice. Lately though, I've noticed that this is a growing trend among larger websites. How many times have you gone to Wired lately, and noticed that you have to load three different pages to get the full 500 word story? Again, another site that preaches good design but doing the opposite.
It seems like the managers that run these websites have had a small revelation that they were running out of room for ads. In fact, it's no secret that when you have to design for smaller resolutions that you'll run out of screen real estate in a hurry. To solve the problem, they decided to split up an article into multiple, smaller pieces of itself. Just imagine the smile on the accountants' faces when they were told that one article could rotate just as many banner ads as three could!
Now I'm all for people making money, but where do you draw the line at how much crap you're willing to let corporations shove down your throat? Now mind you, this is just my opinion, but from emails I've shared with people, and from newsgroup discussions I've seen lately, I'm not the only one that is sick of this new trend to sell ads. Not just that annoying banner ad at the top of a page either. The clever marketing folks have figured out how they can fit more ads than ever on your screen.
Take this article from Wired for example. The first page has two different banner ads at the top, and two or three smaller ads on the sidebar at the left. Then the article is split up into three pages, and you have three times the advertising that the same article might have gotten if it were still one normal page. If a person chooses to go to a site, I would expect that they go there to read something of interest, not wait for banner ads to load. Seriously, what's next?? "This page load is brought to you by your friends at Microsoft, while waiting for your article to load Click here to upgrade to Office 2002 and save!!!"
Now I know that on-line companies are in a bind here. According to NetRatings, a web audience measurement firm, click-through rates are down to less than 1%. Throwing up a banner ad on your website doesn't provide the kind of revenue it used to, and I can truly sympathize that these companies are feeling the pinch. However, the solution isn't to throw more ads at the problem to try to fix it. That makes for a worse end-user experience in the long run. What is the solution? Well I can't say I would care to take a shot at something that big, but hopefully these companies can find a different revenue model while continuing to provide the same services.
A websites focus should be on providing an enriching, rewarding, and useful experience to the end user that is visiting their site, not how to make money off those people that come to their site. If they can't see the reasoning in that, they're not on the Internet for the right reasons in the first place.
In defiance of companies that split up their webpages to serve more ads, I'm making this one as long and 'one-paged' as I can.
Feel free to post your comments below, or drop me a line.