I announced on Facebook a few days ago that I would no longer indulge in website lists that force me to click through a slideshow to read all the information. “From now on,” I wrote, “if I click a link for a list of the ‘X things that Y,’ and I am greeted by a slideshow that forces me to click through for all the information, I’m backing out. Tired of this lousy and inefficient reader experience.”
It took virtually no time at all for friends to pile onto the topic in agreement. “I TOTALLY agree. I hate that,” one wrote. “And when it’s compounded by a slow slideshow, it really pisses me off.” The tenor of the replies carried on along those lines. One of them said he had given up on clickbait like that.
And yes, clickbait it may be. Do I really need to know the 20 Reasons Star Trek is Better than Star Wars (or, CNET’s corresponding 23 reasons Star Wars is Better than Star Trek)? No, probably not, but I’m not above a little clickbait like that from time to time. That’s part of the fun of the Internet. That’s really not what I object to.
And, by the way, not all lists are vapid clickbait. I actually hate this technique even more when it’s truly valuable, useful information. (I might have legitimately been interested in “15 Secret Technologies Invented by the Nazis,” but no. It was a slideshow.)
What I object to is the poor user experience, the plodding pace of the storytelling using that technique and the often confusing navigation that accompanies it.
There are better ways
Forego the short-term page views for long-term loyalty. There are sites that I now recognize in my Facebook newsfeed as the culprits of this lousy reader experience. If I see those sites are the source of one of these listicles, I won’t bother clicking anymore. I know they’re looking for page views, but if they’d given me a good user experience, I’d return in a flash for interesting clickbait. Just give me a single page.
Give us a choice. I recently landed on a listicle that was set up as a slideshow, but gave me the choice to view it as a single page. Great. The web is all about choice. Thanks for the choice! Who knows? Maybe the slideshow would have actually been a better experience on a mobile device?
Summarize. Give me the lowdown up front. If your summary is compelling enough, you might pique my interest enough to compel me to click through your slideshow. Even if I don’t, you’ve made a friend, so I’m more likely to return (see point No. 1 above).
Headline list. Let the main piece list a useful headline for each “slide” in the slideshow. If you’re telling me about the 10 Android apps you can’t live without, list them, briefly, with a two- or three-word summary. Link to the fuller description from there. Again, see point No. 1.
And for the record, Star Wars and Star Trek defy comparison. One is better for epic cinematic chapters in the life of the Empire and the Rebellion; the other is better for more character development and subtle story arcs on the small screen.