TL; DR: the bazillionth whinge about content sites with paginated articles, but picking on businessweek.com as they seem to be doing something particularly iniquitous, that I haven't seen before. (Although it could just be that I'm unobservant or behind-the-times, and that this is old news.)
I was in a branch of W H Smith yesterday, and had a quick flick through the latest issue of Bloomberg Business Week magazine. As usual, there were a number of articles that looked like they'd be worth reading, so I handed over £3.30 for the dead tree edition made a mental note to visit businessweek.com later to digest those articles properly.
I got round to visiting the site just now, and it looked like they might have had a minor redesign since I last visited - nothing particularly outrageous though. The first article I checked was this week's cover story about Twitter. Reading down the first page, it was quite a good piece, if not telling me anything I hadn't previously been aware of.
As I scrolled down to the bottom of the page, there was a pagination nav that indicated the article had been split into four pages. As I clicked on "next >" to go to the following page, I was surprised about how quickly the second page appeared - suspiciously quick, in fact.
Being a nosey bugger, I viewed the HTML source of the page, and found that in fact, all of the article content is present in the "first" page, and it isn't even sectionalized in any way.
Now, pagination of online content is a complicated subject, and I'm no UX guru, conversion wizard or SEO charlatan who can confidently spout chapter-and-verse about what you should or shouldn't do when building a content site. What I do know is that as a user, I don't like having to continually click-scroll-click-scroll-click-scroll to get through an article that could have easily been scrolled through. And I'm pretty sure I'm not alone.
The usual excuse for pagination is that it increases the number of page impressions or ads that can be shown, but I don't think that's valid here:
- The ad space on a long single page is pretty much the same as on multiple short pages, so the same number of ads could be run. Now, after viewing the story on BusinessWeek a few times, it looks very much like there are only a very small number of ads being repeated on each sub-page of the story, and having the same ads repeatedly shown on a longer single page would look pretty dumb, but this seems to me to be more a failure of their ad sales or syndication systems, than anything else.