When putting together a piece of linkbait or viral content, a lot of websites tend to think the more pages, the better. The same goes for slideshows – these freaking things seem to be popping up left and right, most likely by sites whose revenue model is driven by ad impressions. To these guys, the more pages you spread your content, the more views you’ll get and the more money you’ll make. Unfortunately, while this strategy is beneficial to making money, it’s one of the most abhorrent tactics a savvy social news site user can come across.
One of the most basic tenets of website usability is that your user should be able to get from Point A to Point B in as few clicks as possible. From a usability standpoint, does it make sense to spread a list containing 8 items across 4 pages? Your reader has to click multiple times to read something that can be easily presented on one page. It’s annoying and it’s greedy.
Look at any Digg or Reddit submission where the content is superfluously spread across multiple pages, and oftentimes you’ll see a number of comments complaining about the layout. In fact, someone usually ends up linking to the print version of the article so everyone can see the content all on one page. Isn’t that something – you spend all this time and effort putting together a great list with fancy headers and graphics, only to have all of your traffic go to the ghetto print version.
A few well-established websites and brands can get away with shoving content on ridiculous amounts of pages, but even these guys get flack from the social community (I’m looking in your direction, Forbes).
If you do need to spread your content across multiple pages or are creating a slideshow, here are some recommendations:
- Make the slides load as quickly as possible. This submission from Divine Caroline about candy from our childhood did well on Digg, with minimal complaints in the comments about the slideshow layout. One thing Divine Caroline did well is that they loaded only the image and its corresponding blurb for each slide. Keeping most of the page static and loading only the essential parts cuts down on waiting time and makes each slide transition as quickly as possible.
- Keep the slides to a reasonable amount. You can probably coax 15-20 clicks from your user, but the below screenshot is pretty ridiculous:
- Don’t sneak in any extra promo/advertising slides. Think of your slideshow as a list — if your title is “12 Reasons Why America Needs Health Care Reform” and you list seven reasons along with three ads and two links to other posts on your site, that’s not really a list of 12, is it? When a user sees that a slideshow has 15 slides, the reasonable expectation is to see 15 pieces of information related to the subject of the slideshow, not “Here’s some relevant content, now here’s an ad, now here’s some more relevant content, now I’ll have the last slide be a ton of links to other slides!” Case in point: Entertainment Weekly. They pull this crap all the time. Their “season 10 scouting report” for the new season of Dancing with the Stars has 12 slides. Here’s slide #12:
Savvy social media users hate extra clicks, and they really hate advertisements. Work other content in the sidebar or underneath your slideshow instead of forcing it into a final slide that dupes the user. Strip out ads, especially if you’re not a known/respected brand (the heavy hitters can get away with this more than a new site trying to establish its presence and get traffic).
While slideshows used to be more of annoyance in the past and are slowly (and begrudgingly) being accepted as a viable means to organize content, there are still some essential do’s and don’ts to keep in mind when putting one together. If you’re mindful of what the community expects and try to deliver something that’s fast, interesting, and straightforward, you should be able to successfully incorporate slideshows onto your site with minimal backlash.