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Articles vs. HTML

What are the primary differences and uses between Articles and HTML?

1. Articles include "meta-data"
2. Only designers can create/edit HTML.

I'm not always sure when to use which. Articles for articles, obviously. And HTML for templates. But HTML also for random pages, home pages, etc.?

Patrick Breitenbach
Monday, December 10, 2001

If you are both the designer and the content creator then the line can become somewhat blurry.

It all depends on what your site looks like, but I think an easy guide is if EVERY page on your site looks the same, then make them all articles and just have one index.html page with a foreach loop on it.

If a page is unique then make it an .html file (or if you require that it has a specific name).  Otherwise just let it be an article and let it use the templates.

Other people may have different opinions on this one...

Michael Pryor
Monday, December 10, 2001

I still find this distinction to be arbitrary and annoying - in fact it's the only design-related problem I have with the product (as opposed to feature requests).

To me everything in the system should be an article. The difference between an article and what is now called HTML should be whether or not the template is set to "None" and the name has been set to some static value.

Maury Markowitz
Monday, December 10, 2001

Aha! and you have discovered our number one 2.0 feature... :-)

Michael Pryor
Monday, December 10, 2001

The big difference between articles and HTML files is the URL they end up with. All articles end up with a generated filename like "fog0000000044.html", whereas all HTML files end up with the actual filename you give it, such as "index.html".

Use articles for all your normal content, and only use HTML files for those places where you really need control over the published name (e.g. an index.html in each subdirectory).

Darren Collins
Monday, December 10, 2001

Michael; so which version erases the arbitary distinction between folders and articles?

I'm serious -- a lot of articles (user conceptual model) come in five parts, have associated graphics, and have a wrapper page with a page of contents explaining each part. I want to be able to drag the five parts and associated graphics *into* a page, {$foreach x in (self)$} in that page, and have that page picked up in whatever {$foreach$} would otherwise pick it up.

[Output-wise, I don't mind if article contents are uploaded to the same folder as the article itself. Artificially lengthening URLs like that is a Bad Thing.]

Because folders aren't picked up in {$foreach$}, to emulate this I'd have to put the table of contents outside the folder containing the parts and images, and manually specify that path in the contents {$foreach$}. If I had to move the article, I'd have to move both items and edit the manually specified path.

In short, it's probably easier for you to let me put articles in other articles than for me to kludge the behaviour myself. :)

Garth Kidd
Monday, December 10, 2001

Garth, would a better solution to this problem have CD handle parts better? I've been thinking that a feature for an x.0 version (where x > 2) would be to have a paging feature.

If you go to almost any site where the article has any length the current solution is to page it. Things like Time or Salon for instance. It seems this is an area where a little bit of automation in CD would allow you to make these "parted" (or paged) articles easily from a single document.

I've been thinking about doing this for my site which is why I ask. I tend to run on a bit...

Maury Markowitz
Tuesday, December 11, 2001

Let's talk about paged articles for a minute.

I think the only reason that Salon, NYTimes, et al do them is because they want to artificially create extra advertising inventory (more banner slots) and because they like to have more page views so that they move up in the rankings.

But the user suffers, because it's SO much easier and faster to scroll down than to click on a "next" link and wait for a server-round-trip. The first thing I do when I'm reading a NYTimes article is click on the Single Page View button. I HATE articles that are divided into multiple pages. Read, wait, read, wait, read wait. Half the time I don't bother reading the rest of the story even though it might be interesting. Paged articles are a constant reminder that I am not the customer, the advertiser is the customer, I am just a pair of eyeballs to be taken advantage of.

Now, I'll be practical here -- if web publishers want to have multiple pages, and they are paying for CityDesk, who am I to refuse to sell them that feature? :) But from a usability perspective, I must beg you not to split up articles into multiple pages just because they're long. The scroll bar is a great way to deal with long articles.

(I know, UI for Programmers is paged, but that's a whole book, not just an article! And each page has its own theme and was written independently.)

Joel Spolsky
Tuesday, December 11, 2001

Agree with Joel here 100%.

My six-year old son as well as my 87-year old father both comfortably understand (and use) scroll bars.

Paging is entirely anti-user - slowing down the online reading process both performance-wise and cognitively, the last thing an already awkward non-paper exercise needs.

I am still fiddling with CD and not sure whether it is merely good (no small thing) or outstanding. But I am reasonably certain that it will founder if it surrenders its radical commitment to elegant simplicity to (merely) match the kludge-'features' (not) deemed necessary (double-not) out there.

The sorry fact is that even CD is WAY too hard for most sharp, intelligent, subject-domain deep professionals in other fields (doctors, lawyers, candlestick-makers) to grasp as it is - thanks not to CD but the layers of OS-application-Web services complexity that are, alas, unavoidable.

If CD can find a way to give programmers somewhat more control while simplifying its model even *further*, I'll become a champion.

Russ Lipton
Tuesday, December 11, 2001

A few friends of mine are running a site to support their effort to each write a 50,000 word book in a month -- and then to repeat that every month until they get sick of it.

Their ideal design is that for each person, they have each book as a collection of each day's efforts, complete with a quick diary entry at the top and a word count. Sounds perfect for sidebar and teaser, right?

I imagine they'd be kinda peeved if someone told them that splitting up their pages in this way was obviously philosophically corrupt because since c|net and other sites use parts to drive up advertising revenue, the same is *obviously* true of them. :)

I'm not sure that parting is a complete solution. I just have bunches of pages -- the stuff about my lab, the stuff about various competitors, and so on. I really don't want to have to specify a different template for every level of directory. Indeed, some kind of {$foreach x in (folder .parent)$} and the ability to pull in variables from the parent would be handy.

I'll come up with a more concrete example and post back.

Garth Kidd
Tuesday, December 11, 2001

Guys, I couldn't disagree more. Paging has one HUGE advantage, it makes the scroll bars look "smaller" (well bigger actually, but you know what I mean).

When you watch people read things, if the scroll bar is longer that about two pages, they stop reading it. Really. The same article split into two-page chunks will get read all the way through.

No one's sure why, but it happens. Likewise articles wider than about 80 chars get skimmed, ones under 80 chars get read.

It's all about philosophy until you stick the goiniometer on someone's head. Hmmm, that's a nice tagline...

Maury Markowitz
Tuesday, December 11, 2001

"When you watch people read things, if the scroll bar is longer than about two pages, they stop reading it. Really. The same article split into two-page chunks will get read all the way through."

I wonder. Sez who? I'd like to see some usability studies on that. I am FORCED to page through articles on c/net, nytimes, salon et al and, sure, sometimes I do. Does this mean people want to? Doesn't prove the point.

My unofficial usability studies indicate that users, especially those < 80, hate clicking and waiting if they can have it there ready to read. They would rather make the decision to read-or-not-read on a single (screen) page.

Put another way, they will scroll-and-skim to decide WHETHER or not to ...

... go away
... read deeply
... print for another time offline

What is wrong with putting the user-reader in control?

This is nothing more than the same control (analogically) I have with an entire physical book in front of me - I decide how to approach the entire thing or not. I read from 'page' one, go to page 50 or riffle to page 350. I don't "wait" to go to page two, then wait to go to page three, then page four, then page five, then page six, then page ....

(Are we saying we want to enshrine "hurry up and wait" artificially on the Web as a positive user interface principle?)

Relative to another comment made in this thread, there is nothing wrong with 'pages' when they are a legitimate end-of-work or end-of-concept marker - whether this means they are 200 words long or 5,000 words long. Hence pages in CD as a usability 'concept', I imagine.

My quarrel is with paging as an entirely artificial dividing line to force browser redraws - whether for advertising or for imitating paper books.

The Web is not a book.

Whether CD will be forced to 'support' paging in order to sell copies is another matter. I am also eminently practical when it comes to that kind of stuff.

I am not trying to be contentious. If I am missing something, I would be open to understanding what it is. Also, thankfully, this is not one of the more important subjects in the world .... even the software world.

Russ Lipton
Tuesday, December 11, 2001

The advantage of a single page article is it is easy to Print and archive by the end user.

I often save articles for reading offline, I rarely do this for pages articels unless they are an absolute must read (Can't think of any examples).

Just my thoughts.

Anthony Richardson
Tuesday, December 11, 2001

Absolutely Anthony, you've hit on the #1 reason NOT to page.

Maury Markowitz
Tuesday, December 11, 2001

Oh sorry Russ, you asked about "who":

Dyson, M.C. and Kipping, G.J. Exploring the effect of layout on reading from screen. In Hersch, R.D. André, J. and Brown, H. (eds), Electronic Documents, Artistic Imaging and Digital Typography, Proceedings of EP'98 and RIDT'98 conferences. Berlin: Springer-Verlag, 1998, 294-304.

Dyson, M.C. and Kipping, G.J. The effects of line length and method of movement on patterns of reading from screen. Visible Language, 32(2), 1998, 150-181.

This is the study series that did the whole IR-in-the-eye super high-tech tracking thing IIRC.

Maury Markowitz
Tuesday, December 11, 2001

Paging is annoying but I don't mind it as long as there is a "single page view" or "printer friendly format" readily available, like Salon and the NY Times give you.  So it's an extra click--doesn't bother me that much.

The big thing is to make it easy for me to save off to my hard drive :-)

I've heard of some of these studies that say people don't like to scroll, but it seems silly that they'd be more likely to click to see another page if the first screenful doesn't interest them.  And if the first screenful does interest the reader, why wouldn't they want to scroll to read further?

Scott Carpenter
Tuesday, December 11, 2001

Maury:

Is that study available online anywhere? I would love to read it ... providing I don't have to, er, page through it.

Russ Lipton
Tuesday, December 11, 2001

By the way - this thread is not paged.

:)

Cristoforo Mione
Wednesday, December 12, 2001

Sorry Russ, I don't know of any onlnie versions, and google didn't turn any up.

Maury Markowitz
Wednesday, December 12, 2001

It's ironic that the ultimate page chunkers are the search engines,  google in particular.  But at least google allows users to select the chunk size.  I didn't even know that until today.

Terry Kearns
Wednesday, December 12, 2001

For basic text-laden pages, I'd stay away from paging.

For long HTML forms or wizard/CBT type content, I find paging to be extremely helpful.

Big Corporate Evaluator
Wednesday, December 12, 2001

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