Do singlepage, long copy websites work?
June 6, 2007 7:02 AM   Subscribe

Does anyone have any knowledge/experience as to whether the single-page + massively long copy trend for a lot of websites actually work? (Examples Included)

Recently we've been discussing our new company homepage redesign at work and there's been a lot of suggestion as to whether following the increasing trend for a single page with massive copy is the way forward.

These are a couple of examples of what I'm talking about:

Coming from a design background I am massively against it as it goes against everything I "think" to be right about web-design and good user interaction. I don't believe people's attention span to be long enough to actually read these types of sites.

One argument put forward in it's defense is always "If it doesn't work, why are more and more sites doing it?" and my only argument against is that there are a load more sites not doing it then doing it and that to me it just does not portray the image I would want out company to.

Any first hand experience/knowledge would be greatly appreciated. I'm worried that if the consensus is we follow this path that we'll end up hurting ourselves as a company in the long run.
posted by Hates_ to Computers & Internet (23 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Hasn't anyone at your firm noticed that the sites that are doing this are not reputable companies or products? That would be my #1 argument against it. I glanced at the examples you linked, and my first reaction to all three was "scam."
posted by desjardins at 7:13 AM on June 6, 2007

"If it doesn't work, why are more and more sites doing it?"

Because they don't have a design-oriented person to talk management out of terrible site design, I'm guessing.

Clean, simple layout looks more professional. A simple, explicit menu for sub-pages will separate and organize content. Find them examples which are easy to implement with familiar navigation.
posted by cowbellemoo at 7:15 AM on June 6, 2007

My God those sites are annoying. Not only does having to scroll down make it very unlikely I'll get past the first screen of text without leaving the site, but they all scream "scam scam scam" to me. Also "1997 web design".

These people may be prospering (and I say "may" because a lot of these sites make themselves out to be more successful than they really are) because the services they provide aren't terribly on the up-and-up.

Successful marketing doesn't involve telling the customer what you think he needs to know ad nauseam. Successful marketing involves solving your customer's problem, the one they came to you with. Reading 15 KB of text on how wonderful your company is does not solve any problem of mine. I do not care. Give me what I want quickly and easily and I'll be far more likely to spend my money with you.
posted by watsondog at 7:20 AM on June 6, 2007

What does it mean to "work?" Do you mean to efficiently provide information to your customers and others? If so, then none of the examples you provided "work." What a mess.
posted by grouse at 7:22 AM on June 6, 2007

I read an interesting article once about why direct mail ads look cheap. They look cheap because it gives readers the impression that the service is actually inexpensive.

My guess is the pages are designed to look bad on purpose because it gives them a homespun "we're just regular folks" kind of feeling, which is great for pulling in suckers. Is your plan to pull in suckers?
posted by GuyZero at 7:27 AM on June 6, 2007

I have no evidence for anything I'm about to say.

This looks to me like the written equivalent of the hard sell. These sites are analogous to the TV shopping channels people sit in front of until they've been worn down enough to buy.

For the products you've linked to, I could believe that the tone of faux excitement actually works. I'd suggest doing A/B split testing to settle the matter.
posted by Leon at 7:28 AM on June 6, 2007

(on preview)

I read an interesting article once about why direct mail ads look cheap. They look cheap because it gives readers the impression that the service is actually inexpensive.

Years ago I worked with a hardware company that was raking in money hand over fist, and I couldn't understand why their ads looked like badly photocopied flyers. As GuyZero implies, it was to give the impression that their margins were so thin that they couldn't afford design.
posted by Leon at 7:31 AM on June 6, 2007 [1 favorite]

Some time in 1994 Jacob Nielsen cited the requirement to scroll as being one of the big usability no nos - because only 10% of users would bother scrolling at all. In his 1997 review of these original rules he claimed that scrolling pages should now be allowed - even though it still creates potential problems.

Metafilter itself is a pretty good example of a site where long pages involving scrolling work OK - mainly because the content is text based and a "clicky" design that broke it down into small pages would interrupt the flow. The main design elements to bear in mind are to not make the width of the lines too great and to put the most important elements at the top of the page. The amount that people are expected to scroll should be directly proportional to the degree to which they are expected to be interested in the page.

Yesterday I was looking at this very long page about street crimes in Barcelona. The design is pretty lousy and needs some editorial break down into categories - but I scrolled through a large part of it to read because the stories were interesting to me.
posted by rongorongo at 7:35 AM on June 6, 2007

There's a certain design ethos that seems to go hand-in-hand with some of the more "unsavory" businesses. Down, dirty and ugly seems to go along with scams and used-car sales sort of things.
Think about a lot of the junk mail you get. Notice the types of companies that actually bother to get something designed (no matter how minimally) and the businesses that just have something slapped together.

It's a time-honored belief that this sort of "hard-sell" nastiness works. Of course, there's little proof to that. I believe the thinking is that unpretentious, cluttered, busy layouts are less intimidating to the audience they are trying to hit. There is a belief that "designed" pieces are untrustworthy. That their slickness is talking-down to the audience.

This sort of thinking is deeply-entrenched throughout business. I've worked for more than one CEO who definitely distrusted "fancy" design. They tended to love lots of arrows.
posted by Thorzdad at 7:39 AM on June 6, 2007

Yes. They do work.

Just like the 5-page junk mail hard sell letters you get in the mail do work, or they wouldn't keep spending the thousands of dollars to send them.

They work, but only if you're selling to stupid customers. As evidenced by the response here, most web savvy people respond with "Yuck!" and navigate away. Just like most marketing savvy people pitch the hard sell junk mail in the trash.

But the people who are not as savvy do read it, and it works on them.

So, it depends what you're selling. If you're selling a scammy product that someone would have to be less than bright to buy, then the long page will sucker them in great. If you're selling a high-quality product that people will buy without having their arm twisted, then RUN DON'T WALK away from the long page, because it will completely send the wrong message about your company and your products.

IAACopywriter, IANYC.
posted by crackingdes at 7:50 AM on June 6, 2007

The psychology behind these is interesting. I guess there's a number of ways to justify such a slap it on mentality. I like that thought about cheap looking to instill the idea of cheap product. I wonder if SEO has anything to do with it. Anyone reading and responding here is going to be at least basically web savvy. Perhaps they are looking for their targets among certain search terms that would more likely be favoured by occasional net users. There's also the thought that the more they cram in the one spot, the greater is the likelihood that something will catch the reader's eye or that the expectation is that the reader is getting a whole lot more because of the presentation style. Perhaps these sites appear elsewhere in different guises with different names and that what we see here is their just ensuring they are approaching 'all the psychologies' of design-->purchase marketing approaches.

These are just suggestions for how the site designers in dubious markets might think. I'm sure there are more related justifications. But no, I don't know how it could be justified except by comparison to spam -- try everything for minimal costs for occasional successes.

But I agree with the idea that this would be a very risky first choice site design proposal for any sort of legitimate product.
posted by peacay at 7:50 AM on June 6, 2007

Basically: No, don't use that type of format, unless your product is something you'd buy from an infomercial, in which case by all means use it.

These websites are built in a way to hook the user (using images, huge headlines, red text, blinking text, etc) and getting them to read. The page length is such a huge length because they're pushing a sale. Note the continual use of hooks, testimonials, happy pictures, etc. It's basically a late night infomercial, in web form.

No respectable company will ever use this format, as others have mentioned.
posted by Meagan at 8:06 AM on June 6, 2007 [1 favorite]

100% infomercial.. which yeah, do work.

But, I don't think it works like that on the web. I think people watch infomercials on tv because they don't like the other shows on, they have nothing better to do, and they want to be persuaded. I doubt anyone turns on the tv, trying to find a specific infomercial product.

Because the internet is more interactive, I doubt a user is going to somehow stumble on the infomercial page and out of boredom read it. It's much easier to click elsewhere, to a more attractive page. Unless there is an accompanying commercial or print campaign to legitimize the product you're selling, i doubt people would ever find the site, let alone trust sending you their credit card information. I think internet users have a much more refined aesthetic taste than the stuff people get away with on tv.

But then again, I doubt the infomercial target market are not internet savvy and might not mind these sites. But just try getting a site that lame high enough in Google's rankings for them to find it!

I'm also a designer. I say, build a site that legitimizes your company and it's product, one that has staying power.

That's my opinion! that was fun!
posted by SoylentErin at 8:27 AM on June 6, 2007

Who says more and more sites are doing this? And where is the evidence that it works better than a different design? Is there some testing company or focus group out there for cheesy infomercial type hard-sell types that have compared the different methods of reaching customers on the web?

Be that as it may, it all depends on who your company, who you're trying to reach with your web site, and what your goals are with it. If you are or wish to be perceived as the type of company in the three examples provided, then go for it. (I wouldn't, but that's just me)
posted by Robert Angelo at 8:51 AM on June 6, 2007

It should be noted that Nielsen's no-scroll idea was specifically about navigation pages. When applied blindly to content, the suggestion is probably misapplied.
posted by KirkJobSluder at 9:27 AM on June 6, 2007

Assuming you're building a hard-sell type site, I can see how the above three (horrible) sites might work well.

No one needs to buy some self-help book or get rich quick scheme. So you can't be direct. (If you had an IA design the site, it would be a single link in the middle of the page: GIVE US MONEY.)

You need to be persuasive. Scrolling is like browsing: Easy. Non-committal. "No thanks, just looking." Once you get a click, you've got a bite and a potential sucker customer on the line.

But, there are certainly more ways to do this, so it isn't really a long vs short page question. If you've used godaddy, their pages rarely scroll and they try to sell you something at every click. "Do you want privacy protection/email forwarding/auto-renewal/etc. with that domain?"

But, yeah. The only way you'll know for sure is to do an A/B test.
posted by kamelhoecker at 10:03 AM on June 6, 2007

Though less applicable to the nutrition site, the layout of the other 2 you cite is directly related to their sales approach. They're not actually selling real products, but "methods". So their sales process requires a lengthy "don't you want to be happy/rich/healthy" pitch to get the customer fired up for you. Because you have to scroll rather than click a link, you're forced to parse through all of that sales copy.

If you're selling an actual product that has an easily-identifiable benefit, you don't need to jump through those hoops.
posted by mkultra at 10:57 AM on June 6, 2007

I went to an on-line marketing conference sponsored by the AMA about a year ago. One of the speakers was one of those quick talking how to be scammy and make lots of money on the internet types of guys.

He advocated this type of site design, and it was pretty clear that he was always tweaking his ads and landing pages to see which ones performed better.

If your goal is conversions of some kind, then a design like this is probably worth testing to see if you have a higher result with it. Depending on your audience/product, it may or may not work for you, but you can't know unless you test it.
posted by willnot at 11:15 AM on June 6, 2007

See, I just figured that these people have a registry service that includes "FREE HOSTING!!1one!eleventy! * " and the people aren't willing to pay the money for better service. Which also screams scam to me, or at least tightwad-who-should-check-priorities/"If this is really so great, why can't they afford to pay for better hosting?"

*Free Hosting offer applies to providing free server space for a one-page web presence with none of the other pages linked from said page hosted on the free server. You want more than a one-page site, you pays us the big money

I'll join the masses and say don't go for the infomercial all-one-page site.
posted by yggdrasil at 11:56 AM on June 6, 2007

Well, the sites you link to look cheap and nasty to me. But you maybe weren't addressing the design but the concept. You can make the design as good as you like. I like the concept. I have a website on which I put as much info as possible on the first page. For example (tiny example), I put all the business contact details on the first page: why should someone have to click on a "contact" link just to find out my phone number? I think that's good manners, myself, and may pay off in a short-attention-span world. And I put other info there too, beyond what is strictly necessary. If you want a bit of both - one long page plus organisational links - why not link to anchors on the same page?
posted by londongeezer at 12:04 PM on June 6, 2007

There might be some search engine spammy reason to keep 5,000 words on the same page, maybe to act as a honeypot to match the most possible search phrases related to the product?

Just a guess, but I've definitely seen that "hard sell" design before and it's always for really crappy scammy stuff.
posted by mathowie at 8:57 PM on June 6, 2007

It's not necessarily a design abomination - it worked for Suck. Whether it's efficient in this era of context ads is another thing. Google has driven many sites to adopt an annoying pseudo-wizard flow to maximise context clicks, exemplified by sites such as Tom's Hardware which break up what could be a single page into 10+ annoying screens.

Google's nefarious influence is spreading - I noticed that Slate recently moved to a multi-page click-along layout, making it that much less likely that I will manage to click through to the second page of a story and so read the conclusion of many articles.
posted by meehawl at 6:41 AM on June 7, 2007

It'll make your page look exactly like all the scamtastic ebook sellers that use the same design.

To fully fit in, be sure to have testimonials somewhere around 2/3 of the way through, sign the document as if it were a typed letter with a signature gif and everything, and end it with a paypal buy now button.
posted by blasdelf at 2:47 AM on June 14, 2007

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