Fiddling while Rome burns

I’ve been fiddling with a new bit of geekery for the Rad Geek People’s Daily for a couple of days; you may have noticed an early version of it if you’ve been poking around the edges of this site earlier today. If you haven’t, here’s the easiest way to see what I’ve added: go to http://radgeek.com/ and scroll down. Then, keep scrolling. As long as you like.

In most web browsers, you should be able to keep scrolling without ever reaching a set of those next page / previous page pairs of links. In theory you could keep scrolling through the complete archive of Geekery Today. The same feature works in category archives, monthly archives, and searches; meaning, basically, that whenever you are scanning through a list of posts on Geekery Today, you can now run through the whole list without having to click through to a new page. The change was inspired by the points made at Humanized 2006-04-25: No More Pages?

Of course, this page-chunking phenomenon isn’t limited to search sites. It’s used everywhere from blogs to forums, from e-commerce sites to e-mail programs. And it’s surprising how often one finds oneself just giving up and going somewhere else when one has reached the end of a page.

The problem is that every time a user is required to click to the next page, they are pulled from the world of content to the world of navigation: they are no longer thinking about what they are reading, but about about how to get more to read. Because it breaks their train of thought and forces them to stop reading, it gives them the opportunity to leave the site. And a lot of the time, they do.

The take away? Don’t force the user to ask for more content: just give it to them.

And so I will just give the other posts to you. But the trick here was to develop a way to make those posts — sometimes hundreds of them stretching over several years — all available to you without making you wait for everything to download. (Not only would that make everyone wait for those posts to download; it would also make the website completely inaccessible for mobile devices and other alternative web platforms.) The solution to the problem was for me to write a little bit of unobtrusive JavaScript, inspired by Humanized’s implementation, and to tinker a little with the WordPress templates on the back end, so as to automatically grab the older posts as you scroll down towards the bottom. That way, for users with conventional web browsers there’s always more waiting for you to read as you scroll down (at least, until you reach the earliest post). But mobile users and other people who have JavaScript turned off can still access the website the same way they already were, with no substantial change.

This is still a work in progress; let me know what you think — and whether you notice anything weird or broken — in comments. If you’re interested in knowing more about how I implemented it, you can drop me a line.

In the meantime, scroll on!

5 replies to Fiddling while Rome burns Use a feed to Follow replies to this article · TrackBack URI

  1. Laura J.

    Neat!

  2. Geoff

    I agree, very neat.

  3. Victoria Marinelli

    Very interesting innovation. One of my thoughts was, how would this affect people who want to print out and read ‘the first page’ of your blog? So I loaded the page, hit ‘print preview’ and it gave me 20 some pages. Then when I went back and did the whole ‘scrolling as you go’ reading and again hit ‘print preview’ it gave me 40 some pages.

    Good luck with all the changes!

· April 2007 ·

  1. Discussed at radgeek.com

    Rad Geek People’s Daily 2007-04-01 – Humanitarian Interventions:

    […] A few days ago, I mentioned that I was test-driving a new feature for the Rad Geek People’s Da…, which implemented a Humanized History magic scroller for WordPress blogs. Yesterday, I added the same feature to Feminist Blogs, which also runs under WordPress (thanks to the FeedWordPress aggregator), and which happens to have an even more pressing need for a way to let users quickly scan through lots and lots of posts without wasting the user’s time or the web server’s scarce resources. Currently the implementation is based on a bit of ugly hackery involving WordPress’s templates and my own site-specific JavaScript, but I am thinking that if I have a bit of free nerdery time later in this week I am going to put together a WordPress plugin that will package up the features for you (yes, you!) to install on your own WordPress blog or FeedWordPress-based aggregator. […]

· October 2007 ·

  1. Discussed at projects.radgeek.com

    Rad Geek’s Projects » Humanized History for WordPress 2007.10.08:

    […] implemented a version of this trick on a couple of other websites that I run (1, 2) using a bit of ugly spit-and-bailing-wire kludgery in the WordPress templates before I bothered […]

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