The difference between a long page and a long text

large_157314859They say that you can always find your way out of a labyrinth by keeping one of your hands at the wall from the moment you walk in. It doesn’t matter if it’s your left or your right as long as you don’t change hands somewhere along the way. It’s a guaranteed way out… But it seems the most boring way to walk a labyrinth.

I think most people will not choose to ‘solve’ a labyrinth in that manner. I would just walk in, try different turns and peek into alleys. Trying to create just enough map in my head to get out on the other side. I don’t know which method is more effective but this just seems more natural and exciting.

Of course I would be most happy if I could somehow magically make all the right turns and end up at the target spot in the least amount of time. And no amount of wise people telling me “It’s the road that counts.” can change that.

The same goes for trying to find information on the web: I do some keyword searches, scan the results, click some result links that ‘feel right’, scan the linked pages for info that feels ‘related enough’ and proceed from there. Or return to the results page, try another and another. After 4 or 5 ineffective clicks I try more- or new- keywords and start over.

Sounds familiar? Of course it does. Because, just like in the labyrinth, there’s no magical path to the information you want.

When I visit a webpage with a long text, the first two lines will determine (for me) if it’s the info I’m looking for or not. If it’s the right way out or a long hallway to a dead end.
But if there’s multiple pieces of related information in the form of headings, photos, streamers and graphics. I’m not immediately sure if this is the right way or not ánd I’m tempted to take a little more time to find out. “Searching” becomes more like exploring. And a long page holds the promise of possible gems. So I scroll. And so “people don’t like to scroll!” doesn’t affect me.

However; “people don’t like to read long texts on screens” DOES affect me. Most people are just not very good at reading from a screen at all. And most of the things we’re not very good at, we do not like to do a lot of. But that’s not the case with scrolling. Scrolling is easy and we’re getting good at it, especially since we’re using our touch screens so often. So long home pages are just fine.

And those statistics that show a lot of people that only visited your site for 6 seconds? Those were people looking for something that you don’t offer. You shouldn’t want to tailor your website to their needs. Because there will always be people looking for things you’re not offering.

photo credit: LexnGer via photopin cc