When arranging your pages, be aware that novice viewers can be easily disoriented by long, scrolling Web documents. They seem unable to find links when they disappear off-screen as they move through very long pages. Though there are ways to keep your novice viewers oriented, it’s a good idea to limit your documents to two screens worth of
information. If you must use long documents, be sure to feature navigational links at the beginning, end, and even the middle (if your document is very large) of the Web document. A frames system helps to eliminate this problem by enabling you to keep your navigation bars on-screen while the content is scrolling.
Another disadvantage of very long Web documents is that the viewer must rely on the
vertical scroll bar to navigate through the page. In many graphic interfaces the scroll bar
slider is a fixed size and gives the viewer no real indication of the length of the
document relative to what is currently visible on the screen, so users have no idea how
long your Web document is, or when they will reach the end of it. In extremely long
Web pages, very small movements of the scroll bar can completely change the contents
of the screen, leaving the viewer no familiar landmarks on screen (where am I?). This
forces the viewer to creep slowly downward with the scroll bar arrows (often
line-by-line), or risk missing sections of the page.
All this would seem a good argument for always limiting your Web documents to two
page lengths, but of course, as with all rules, there are exceptions. For instance, it makes
sense to keep very closely related information within the confines of a single Web
document, especially when you are providing information which you anticipate the
viewer will want to print or save to text. By keeping the content within one document,
you make printing and saving much easier. When designing long Web documents such
as these, always provide internal links within the document. The best way to do this is to
arrange your Web document like a book, with the information split into separate sections
(chapters). You can then make a table of contents at the beginning and end of the
document so viewers can jump to a particular section without having to scan through the
A navigational table of contents.
Page length tips:
- Attempt to make the majority of your pages no longer than two screen lengths. If you must use long documents, feature internal navigation links at the beginning, end, and even the middle (if your document is very large) of the Web document.
- When a page is intended to grab people’s attention, don’t make the page longer than the average screen length.
- If your document is more than one screen “page,” try to see to it that some content is presented on the first screen so the user can tell that there’s more to be seen below the horizon.
- If your pages include text that viewers will want to read at length, it’s all right to use lengthy, scrolling pages—just be sure to warn them that a big file is coming.
- If dividing information into separate segments, provide a separate link to a complete document. This will make it easier for viewers to print or save your document.
- If you have a page with only a small bit of information, try to combine it with related information. It’s very annoying for the viewer to have to wait to download a page that only contains two links or one paragraph of text.