From sheep size to book size and beyond: Do we still need to paginate articles online?


I’ve been reading about the interesting relationship between the size of a sheep and the size of a book (folio, tabloid, foolscap, quarto, octavo, etc) - all inherited from parchment production in the 2nd-4th centuries AD (and standardised with the advent the printing press), but carrying into the form-factors we use when reading today, even into the digital realm of e-readers where ‘eight-pages-per-sheep’ no longer makes any sense.

This got me thinking about other book-related legacies we still use in the digital landscape, and onto the subject of web ‘pages’, particularly multi-page articles.

Is there a point to paginating our articles? We’re no longer limited by the size of a sheep or cow. Isn’t it easier and less annoying to serve up a long article on a single page, or to use infinite scrolling? Are smaller pages easier to navigate as ‘chunked’ information? Do we as designers have a hidden agenda to show more branding or top-of-page advertisements by breaking articles into portions?

And if we did keep pagination, why do we only tend to increment by 1 page, rather than exponentially (perhaps by using a Fibonacci sequence?) when it’s clear people want to get deeper into the document than just the first 10 pages?

I’m hoping that these questions will kick off some discussion and get people to share their own practices, along with how (and when) each might be effective.

Is there a point to paginating articles online? What do you guys start with when drawing up a page concept, and have you ever had any feedback during usability testing? I’d be fascinated to hear!


I quite like a Fibonacci sequence :slight_smile:

Great topic!

No, I don’t paginate my articles. It doesn’t seem like a web-y thing to do and none of mine are very long either so no toilet roll situation here (infinte scrolling). I do however like to chunk the information up to improve the way it flows and I’m a huge fan of dot points.

When testing - The only time I’ve been asked for pagination was when I was gathering requirements for a print friendly version of a website. The user wanted the pagination so they could save it as a PDF and use the page numbers to bookmark and find things easily for future reference.


Aha - thanks so much, ASHM. =) Webpages can make it back to A4, even in PDF! So, basically, your pagination linked to anchors in the PDF, allowing a flexible form of navigation? Obviously hard/unimportant to enforce page length in a flowing document (A4 is 842 pixels, minus margins, at 72dpi).

I like the idea of chunking. At the UX Australia conference this year Michelle Berryman talked about the Cadence of Great Experiences, and although she didn’t mention it explicitly, the cadence of regular-sized bites or related groupings helps us feel the duration and coverage of our browsing whilst we’re foraging for information.

And yep, the cheeky geek part of me wants to give Fibonacci pagination of article listings a go next time even if just to see how it does in testing. =)


Yes - that’s correct they were using the pagination to navigate very large pieces of information :slight_smile: Most of the time they were looking for a single paragraph of an enormous policy type document and would often come back to it again at a later time.

I missed Michelle’s presentation! I was probably next door, but I will watch her slides and check out the sketchnotes for it.

Chunking takes me back to my information design days where I was given an awful wall of text and required to synthesize it into something useful :slight_smile:


Great way to start a post!