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How Big to Make Your Web Page

One thing about the way that web pages work that is different from printed material is that there is no fixed size into which you have to fit your content. This means that you could theoretically put a huge amount of information into one web page so that the page ends up containing more content than a multi-volume encyclopaedia.

There are a number of constraints on how big your web page should be but these have to do with setting it up so that people will actually see it rather than physical constraints on how big you can make the page. I have already dealt with how big a page should be in terms of the combined size of all of the files that make it up. I have also dealt with the pros and cons of the various ways that you can go in determining the width of your content. If you follow those guidelines then you will end up with a web page where the majority of people visiting will actually have the entire page load onto their computer.

Just because the page loads though is no guarantee that people will actually read all of your page though. There are two further things to consider in working out an appropriate page size and layout.

Exactly how much of your page that people will see without scrolling depends on how they have their browser set. The bigger the display area they have their browser set to use the more of your page will appear without the need to scroll the page. What you need to do therefore is to select a particular browser size as being that used by your typical visitor and work with that. For example you may decide that your average visitor has a screen resolution of 10224 x 768 and has their browser maximised. You then deduct so much for fixed toolbars on the desktop and fixed toolbars and scrollbars etc in the browser window in order to determine an approximate size that will be visible to those visitors without their having to scroll. That part of your web page is the most valuable because everyone who visits the page will see that part. It is then a matter of selecting what part of your content to put into that part of the page so as to capture your visitors interest and to convince them to scroll down to see more of the page.

One important aspect of this is to make sure that what appears above the fold in a typical browser doesn't appear to be complete. Not all of your visitors will think to look at the scrollbar to see if what they are looking at is the whole page or just a part of it. If your page looks s if that is all there is on the page then the chances of their thinking to scroll down to see the rest of the page is greatly reduced.

The other aspect is how far they need to scroll in order to read the whole page. For each screen full of information that they need to scroll down to see you will have a certain percentage of your visitors lose interest in your page and who will go elsewhere rather than scroll the current page down to view another screenful. Of course the elsewhere may be another page on your site particularly if there are interesting looking links visible on the screen that go to other pages of your site.

Where your page goes on for quite a way you will probably be much better off if you split that web page into multiple pages. Having several short web pages has several advantages over having one longer one. Some of these advantages include:

So how do you decide how big to make your pages? Well the primary concern should be to split the content up into logical sections, there is little point in splitting a long article right inn the middle of something just because you have reached some arbitrarily defined limit.

The question then becomes one of determining how finely that you should consider subdividing your material into sub-topics in order to give each its own separate page. You probably don't want to go too small or you end up with just a couple of lines of content surrounded by navigation, advertising, etc and your visitor would need to visit a lot of pages to see the whole thing. Then you again end up with few reading the whole thing because the more pages it goes over the fewer people will navigate from one through the next all the way to the end. While those who are interested will click on the link to take them to a second page that provides further information the less information you put on each page and the more pages you have the less likely they are to continue through.

You have to determine your own compromise for this but based on the various statistics that I have seen in various books on web site usability having a web page that is around one to three screens in overall size seems about the right size to have most of your visitors who are actually interested in your topic to at least view all of the page even if they don't actually read it all.

 

This article written by Stephen Chapman, Felgall Pty Ltd.

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