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Short Pages vs Long Pages

Tech Web

Sun Documentation

User Interface Engineering


2. Taking a Position on Scannability

Take a position on one of these topics.

Short Pages vs Long Pages

Less information on a page—and hence more pages—allows users to more easily find the information they need and read and retain it than a site with a lot of information on a long page.

However, a longer page can provide users with a wide range of content from which they can develop a broader view of the information, retaining a similar amount of information overall as readers of shorter pages.

A writer must weigh these tradeoffs given a site’s purpose, content, and audience.—Spyridakis (2000)

Tech Web

TechWeb, from CMP, reports on Web technology at http://www.techweb.com/, which is just a part of the huge CMP site. The writers soemtimes follow the strategies recommended in this module, particularly when writing for beginners. But the site also includes much thick text, unbroken except by paragraph returns.

Study several stories, and their environment, then take a position on one or more of these questions:

  • How scannable are these stories, on the whole, or individually?
  • What tools do the writers rely on most often to make their stories more scannable?
  • Does the variation in scannability from one story to the next bother you, and if so, why?

Please include generous samples, and URLs in your position statement.

Sun Documentation

Sun has sponsored lots of important research into what works and what does not, in Web interfaces. Their researchers report on current technology, and the results of research projects at http://research.sun.com/

Read some of the articles, then evaluate the scannability of the prose.

  • What techniques do the writers use to make the style scannable?
  • What improvements could be made?
  • Were you able to read the entire piece online?
  • Assuming that some people read only far enough to decide whether to save or print, did the opening paragraphs help you get an overview of the rest of the piece? Were these opening paragraphs particularly scannable?

Please include generous samples, and URLs in your position paper.

User Interface Engineering

Jared Spool runs the User Interface Engineering company, and their site at http://world.std.com/~uieweb/ brings you a lot of news about Web site usability. Read several of their articles, such as those on spooling, testing documents, and surprises on the Web. Written for impatient professionals like you, these articles summarize the research, make recommendations, and, subtly, sell UIE’s services.

  • Overall, how scannable do you find the articles?
  • How interesting?
  • What makes these articles easy or hard to scan on the screen?
  • How far into a piece did you make the decision to save or print, if ever?


Jakob Nielsen recommends writing what he calls microcontent—headlines, page titles, and subject lines as "pearls of clarity," in his Alertbox at http://www.useit.com/alertbox/980906.html

  • To what extent does Nielsen’s prose achieve scannability for you?
  • Does he follow his own advice?

Please include generous samples, and URLs in your position paper.

Guidelines on scannability

2a. Create a meaningful

2b. Insert meaningful
      headlines and

2c. Highlight keywords and
      phrases--and links.

2d. Turn any list into a
       bulleted or numbered


Resources on scannability

Taking a Position on Scannability

Heuristic Online Text (HOT) Evaluation for Scannability




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