Article pagination… good or bad?


For the MSDN Magazine Web site, one concept we frequently revisit when thinking about how to improve it is that of article pagination.  Some of the articles in the magazine are relatively long, and on the Web site, each article shows up as an individual page, which can mean quite a bit of scrolling when reading an entire piece.  In scenarios like this, other sites frequently use pagination, where they divide an article up into some number of pages, and rather than scrolling, you click “next” or a particular page number to move around.  This is a behavior we’ve always decided against, preferring the one-page scrolling approach, but we’re now considering pagination again, and your thoughts on the matter would be appreciated.


Which style do you prefer?  Is pagination something we should add to our site?  And if we do, should we provide the option to read the content either way, or would you always prefer one versus the other?


-Stephen

Comments (23)

  1. Doug says:

    It would be great if you could have a XAML paginator that would adapt to screen size and eliminate the round-trip delay of HTML multi-page.

  2. brantgurga says:

    My vote is for single page articles. It makes more sense for bookmarking, sending links, and printing. Additionally, the inconvenience of long articles is vertical scrolling, but most sites that split articles still have vertical scrolling so that pagination makes for an inconvenience instead of a solution.

    If an article has related side-bars that are not part of the actual article, it would make sense to put those on their own page. But that is the only case that really makes sense to me.

  3. Cory Nelson says:

    I prefer scrolling.  I’ve never been impressed with sites that split things into pages, because it inevitably means either: a) inefficient usage of a large screen, or b) built for bigger screens and you still end up having to scroll!

    If you have very long documents, consider making headings into links with #ids so people can bookmark stopping points.

  4. John Bates says:

    If implemented, pagination should be decided by a cookie setting, defaulting to the full article if no cookie. Like previous commenters I prefer whole pages for bookmarking, printing, etc.

    The other important design issue is printing; print preview should show the page without navigation, etc. or navigating to a separate "print" page. And it should work without clipping the right margin on A4 paper, not just Letter.

  5. Saurabh says:

    Please no pagination – just single page articles. It’s hard to bookmark and save multi page articles.

    Some usability might reveal that people don’t like scrolling, but that might apply to a non-techie group. For Techies we are so used to scrolling -please don’t take that away.

  6. Vlad says:

    Pagination is not needed, unless you’re constrained by low bandwidth or a small screen (pda).

    I prefere to scroll on my PC, but when using my treo like pagination.

  7. ksharkey says:

    My scrollbar works fine, thank you. Most sites that have pagination only do it to increase page views artificially, and I tend to rapidly hit the "Print preview" on them so that I see the whole article.

    Now a downloadable version in PDF or (shudder) WPF/e would be great.

  8. Dean Harding says:

    I’m gunna "me too" on the one-long-page thing. Makes printing, bookmarking, searching, and so on, much easier.

    > Now a downloadable version in PDF or (shudder) WPF/e would be great.

    That’d be PDF or XPS – WPF/e would be like a downloadable Flash version…

  9. YS says:

    No pagination.

  10. jod75 says:

    I prefer scrolling – apart from the printing/bookmarking/searching/etc mentioned in other comments, it’s easier/faster to refer back and forth in the article.

  11. Mike Dunn says:

    +1 for no pagination. As ksharkey said, when I see a paginated article, the cynic in me thinks the site is just trying to generate more page hits and serve more ads.

  12. Well yesterday was TechDays and I enjoyed it, though it was not what I expected. I followed the SharePoint

  13. Alan Dean says:

    Another vote for single-page viewing: I can’t bear article pagination. For one thing, you can’t quickly scan an article to assess if it meets your needs when searching for a solution to a problem.

  14. Chua Wen Ching says:

    I still prefer 1 page than pagination.

  15. Doug says:

    This is already a downloadable version in chm format.

  16. I would go also for 1 page format, because it’s very hard to fit to the actual display page without third party viewers (Flash, XAML), and those are not working very well across browsers (Firefox, Windows Mobile). Not talking about searching, printing and so on.

  17. Kenny Kerr says:

    good or bad? Bad.

    I don’t like paging through articles for two reasons: 1. it makes it harder to print out an article and 2. it slows me down when I just want to skim through an article and now I have to wait for subsequent pages to load.

  18. Harry@Ardimedia.Com says:

    My vote is for single page articles too…

  19. MSDNMagazine says:

    Excellent.  Thank you all for your passionate feedback!  I’m glad I asked :)

    I’d still like to hear from anyone else who has an opinion, even if it’s just to echo what everyone else has said.  And if anyone does in fact prefer pagination, I’d like to know why.

    -Stephen

  20. JamesSp999 says:

    worst idea ever! please don’t!

  21. hit the <page down> key says:

    Scrolling (scrollbars)?  Has anyone heard of page down?

  22. Roy says:

    Put me in the one page per article group. The only reason I can see for breaking an article up into pages is to show more ads.

  23. Sam says:

    It ain’t broken, don’t fix it.

    Please keep the article web format as-is. Layout is excellent for reading, it fits nicely on the page when printed and it is easy to archive. I use pdf995 PDF driver to save article for future reference.

    I particularly like how your print preview includes figures and pictures. Really well done.

    If you want to see how paging can get in your way, check out msnbc.com. Even their "Print Preview" needs some work because it leaves images out (in a news story, images are sometimes just as important as the article text).

    Since Msnbc is co-owned by Microsoft, maybe you can talk to these guys and give them your templates :)