A lot has happened in four weeks. It’s been very busy, but also highly productive. Here’s a quick look at four of the biggest things that happened in January:
One of my long-standing navigation requirements for any website is pagination. It should be possible to see how many pages of content a site has, and it should be possible to jump to any page.
However, I’ve found this doesn’t really work on large news sites. When was the last time you saw a news site with pagination going back thousands of pages?
How news sites work
When readers go to a news site, they will usually be looking for the latest news. This can be found on the homepage, or you can drill down by going to a section page (Sport, Tech, Entertainment etc).
For a small site, or a section with only a few pages of content, it can be useful to click through each page to browse the history of the site. But once a site has published vast quantities of content, pagination becomes a lot less useful.
Who reads old news?
How useful is it to browse through old news, through thousands of pages? If you wanted to find an old story, there are a couple of ways to find it much more quickly:
- Search – no need to think about where the content is – just find it with a quick search;
- Archives – know when the story was published? Date-based archives can be a lot faster than scrolling through page after page;
- Related links – not really the best way to find a specific story, but if you’re on a story and you want to read other stories on similar topics, related links can be quite handy.
Crawlers and performance
There’s also the issue of crawlers. If search bots can crawl thousands of pages in your News category, they will try to. Wouldn’t it be better to limit your pagination to a small number of pages (10-20 at most) – or lose it altogether – so crawlers can index your stories first, and stop crawling your section pages?
We also noticed some crawl issues occurring due to crawlers simultaneously hitting multiple page numbers in the section archives. It didn’t make sense to keep thousands of old section pages active.
As long as your stories are in sitemaps, you don’t need to maintain an endless list of paginated section pages.
Getting feedback from users can be an invaluable way to determine how your product is viewed by its audience. But it’s important to understand some of the pitfalls with user feedback before you start allowing comments to shape your product strategy.
1. Not everyone likes change
There’s a running joke that whenever Facebook changes something, people are up in arms for a week or two – maybe not even that. After that initial period, we get used to the change. Sometimes, negative feedback may be purely down to the fact we don’t like change. If you’re going to ask for feedback, don’t do it immediately after a big release.
2. People are more likely to give negative feedback
Negative feedback can be a good way to measure if a recent change has annoyed users. Unfortunately, a lot of people won’t give any feedback at all – including those who are happy with a change. Don’t take negative feedback to mean you need to reverse a recent change.
3. One-off comments may not help anyone else
If one person asks for something, don’t jump on that task immediately. If it’s a good idea and you can make a change as a result of their feedback, it’s something to consider. However, if you react to every comment without considering if it’s right for the product, you may end up with a product with a sprawling feature set, and that pleases an extremely narrow group of users – the most vocal ones.
4. New designs need time to bed in
A new design can attract a lot of comments – most of them are purely down to opinion. Issues such as elements overlapping, fonts being too small, or scaling not working across different screen sizes are important things to fix. Beyond that, aesthetics shouldn’t be up for debate.
5. People don’t know what they want
If you ask 100 users of your product what they want from it, the collective feedback may be a laundry list of missing features. In fact, your best change could be something that nobody even thought of. You are in control of product strategy – find things that people didn’t even know they wanted. Make the product quicker and easier to use.
6. Surveys can help – but be careful what you wish for
A user feedback survey can give you a limited set of feedback on the questions of your choosing. But don’t ask for things you don’t want to do. “Should we build an app?” is a pointless question if you have no intention of building one.