In my previous post about the redesign, I glossed over what was actually was a fair amount of thought and logic behind what I did (and re-did). Based on the comments, some of that thinking might not be clear.
Why not just stick them on their own page? If you want archives, click on archives, and go to the archives. Seems unnecessary to hang them on the bottom of every page whether they’re wanted or needed for that visit, or no.
All that stuff at the bottom of the page seems overkill and excessive server to client material.
So here’s my rationale. (Beware, this is all very information-design-y, and may make your eyes glaze over. Caveat lector.)
If you read the site frequently, you’ll never see the footer anyway.
Since I only post every two or three days, only the top article will be new to most readers. You’d stop scrolling once you hit an article you’d already read.
So the footer isn’t overkill if you never see it.
Many of my visitors come via search engines.
Looking through the logs, it’s clear that a significant percentage of traffic on the site ends up here because of a screenwriting-related search. If a visitor lands on an article about what I/E means, he’d likely have no sense of what else was available on the site. To reverse a metaphor, he’d only see the tree, not the forest.
Yes he could click on a link for an Archives page, but I wouldn’t. By sticking the footer on every page of the site, I can help anyone landing on any page get a sense of how much is available.
It increases the stickiness.
“Stickiness” is an awkward term to describe how much time a person spends at a given website, which helps determine ad rates. This site doesn’t have any ads, but it does have a lot of information I’d like people to have. So, unlike my house, I’m happy to have people hang around for a while.
An Archives page means another layer of clicking.
Let’s say you want to find an entry about Big Fish. With the fat footer, you click on “Big Fish,” and you get a list of all the articles in that category. Pick your article and read it.
With an Archives page, you’d first get a list of categories, then a new page with the entries. That’s not complicated, but it’s an extra step, and an extra kind of page to keep straight. (That is, a main Archives page, and a Category page.)
For the same reason, I’ve chosen to have the Archives page list all the articles in a chosen category, rather than breaking it down into chunks of 10 or 20 articles. The smaller chunks look nicer, but are ultimately harder to mentally process. (Was that other article I was interested in on page 2 or 3 of the results?)
Yes, there are slick AJAX-y ways of doing all the category stuff on a single page. However, a lot of these solutions reset every time you come back to the page, which makes churning through a bunch of articles frustrating.
It’s not that much more work for the server.
The server is off-site, so I can’t give any quantitative figure. But in testing, I haven’t seen any difference in page-loading times with or without the fat footer. Generating the archive list for the footer is exactly one line of php:
If generating the footer were slowing things down, it would be (almost) trivial to cache it. But I don’t see that being a factor.
Still, the footer means extra information to deliver to the client. That’s one reason I’ve dropped the default number of articles per page, and why I’m pretty conscientious about keeping images reasonably-sized.
Does the site sometimes load slowly? Yes. And too often, it goes down altogether. It’s a hosting situation that I hope to have resolved in the near future.
The archives listing helps search engines index the site.
This is debatable, honestly. True, it puts every article in the site just two links away, making it easier to spider through the site. In the old days of search engine optimization, this was a major goal. Now it’s probably much less important, because there are now many different ways for the Googles of the world to find, process and deliver the information on the site.
I mentioned before that this is part one of the redesign. The second phase will occur this week, and will make it more clear why I changed some of the things I did.