Splitting Large Web Pages on GeodSoft.com
Some of the pros and cons of large text web pages versus several
small pages with the same information are discussed. Both user and
web developer perspectives are addressed.
When I began the Making This Site section, everything was in
one page which grew very quickly as the site developed. Used
effectively, HTML can make if very easy to move around a
large page. There are advantages and disadvantages
form both the web page
developer's and the end user's perspective for using a
relatively small number of large pages versus a large
number of small web pages.
For a site developer, it is simply much easier to design
and develop a small number of large pages than to do many
small pages. Even if every section of a large page has
anchors and the page has a detailed table of contents
linking to the anchors,
these are easier to manage than many separate pages.
The more pages a site has, the more sophisticated its
site management tools need to be. There is little on
the web that looks less professional than a site that
is a hodgepodge of different page styles, varied graphics
and missing, broken or inconsistent navigation aids,
yet without good site management tools and the policies
to require their use, its inevitable that web sites will
become hodgepodges over time.
From a user perspective there is one significant advantage
to large pages. Where a site has significant quantities
of textual information which needs to be read, few users
do such reading online and it is much simpler and faster
to print one or a few large pages than to print many small
pages. Its also likely to be cheaper to because many small
pages will have space and toner wasting elements that repeat
on every page but add nothing to the information content.
It's for these reasons that some sites go to the trouble
of preparing "printer friendly" pages as a supplement
to the standard web pages.
Large pages have several distinct disadvantages for users.
First, the simple fact that they are large means they will
download slowly for modem users and will format much more
slowly than small pages regardless of the connection speed.
Thus, unless the page has just what the user is looking for
large pages are a significant nuisance for the user. Even
if the page does have what the user wants, unless the page
author has made considerable effort to organize the page
well, the user may have trouble finding what they want.
More important to the user is that large pages don't search
well. Many web sites have large quantities of information and
no matter how well and carefully they are planned and organized
it simply is not feasible to find everything via navigation
aids and site maps. Knowledgeable persons familiar with the
same materials are likely to come up with different ways to
organize the material so different users are likely to have
very different results in finding what they want.
Properly implemented full text search capabilities
mitigate the problems of poor navigation aids and enhance
well designed navigation aids.
Large documents covering a range of topics will result in
many more false positive hits than small documents focused
on specific topics. Even with carefully formulated boolean
searches, because large documents have so many more words,
widely separated words that have no real relationship to
each other will meet typical "and" search logic. "Not" also
loses what utility it might have with large documents. The
only way to successfully search large documents is if the
engine provides proximity searching and the user uses it in
When search results are returned from a site with large web
pages, they will have many false positive hits that point to
large documents that take a long time to download. After
waiting for one or two documents that do not have what they want,
especially if they go to the extra effort and use the browser's
capability to search the text of the retrieved document, users
will become frustrated and find a site that more easily
provides what they are looking for.
There is also at least one very real reason why a web site
developer may want to keep page sizes small. This site has
a clear example. I am planing to put significant portions
and eventually the entire contents of a book that I am working
on, on this site. At some point I hope to publish the book
through conventional print channels. I want the web site
to be a promotional tool and complement
to the print version, not a free replacement for it. If I
put up chapter length sections as single web pages, it would
simply be too easy for someone to print the whole thing or
those sections they were particularly interested in.
Figuring the real costs of time, printer depreciation, toner
and paper there might not be much actual savings over buying
a printed version but must of these costs are hidden while
the cost of the book is entirely visible. If the book
is broken into pieces that are approximately the size of
a printed page, any intelligent professional who needs or
wants significant portions of the book, will recognize
the cost effectiveness of purchasing the printed version.
This will also make the online version more useful for the
search related reasons cited above.
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