The advantages and disadvantages of one page websites

 In Search Engine Optimisation, SEO, Website design

The advantages and disadvantages of one page websites

one page websites

As we know, one page websites are all the rage – the website of choice for the modern, on-trend company. There is no denying that they can look fantastic, but, and this is a big but, are they SEO friendly? My immediate response was no, of course not, how can they be when there is only one title tag and one meta description blah blah blah. However, with clients asking ever increasingly for a one pager, I thought it was high time I delved a little deeper to improve my knowledge, and hopefully at the same time, improve yours. So, here goes:

The advantages of one page websites

1.  Encourages Scrolling

When single page websites started emerging their main critics argued that they were potentially limiting success in rankings as the majority of content is ‘below the fold’. For years we have been telling our clients that success lies partly in having quality content above the fold (ie, not having to scroll down). Single page websites fly in the face of such advice.

However, the ‘above the fold’ rule has been somewhat diminished in recent years. A fascinating study by CX Partners (The Myth of the Page Fold: Evidence from user testing) from 2009 breaks down what they call the ‘myth of the fold.

It was a commonly held belief that people don’t like scrolling down a webpage to find information. CX Partners found that having less information above the fold actually encouraged people to scroll down the page. This is especially true if the page is designed well and flows, rather than segments the page.

 

2.  Smart Phones Encourage Scrolling

Due to the rise in popularity of tablets and smart phones, we are now accustomed to scrolling for information, and, particularly in the case of phones, it is often easier to scroll for information than to click.

3.  Ideal Vehicle for Single Product of Service Sites

Life of Pi Single page websites are perfect for single  product of service websites. One product only  needs one page. They are the perfect vehicle for  storytelling. A great example of this is  www.journeylifeofpimovie.com – A one page  paralax site made specifically to recount the making of the Hollywood blockbuster Life of Pi.

Having never been a huge fan of one page websites, I have to admit, I was blown away by this site. It’s modern, exciting, flows well, tells a story and makes you want to scroll more. It is the perfect example of everything a one page website should be as it focuses on one product and tells a story without feeling disjointed which it may have been had a traditional website been used. A masterpiece by Soap Creative which I would urge you to look at.

4.  Creative CV’s

Interactive ResumeA fantastic use of 1 page sites which is becoming more popular with those in the design industry is to use them as a CV/resume. I first saw this from Robby Leonardi, whose inspired video game theme resume won him respect and admiration the world over. The character (Robbie) runs through each section of the CV, highlighting his skills, interests and general greatness!

This site went viral and you can see why. A single page website was the perfect choice in this situation as it provided a fluid user experience vehicle which seamlessly flowed from one section to another. Genius!

 

5.  Google’s Take on Single Page Sites

What does Google think of single page websites? Google’s Matt Cutts was asked the following question: “What does Google think of single page websites?”

Predictably, Cutts answer was somewhat vague, neither confirming nor denying their success. He did however state that Google has “gotten better at handling Javascript“. Whilst he did advise that users run a test first as you shouldn’t “bet your SEO legacy on this one single page working well.” He also said that

If it works for you and for users to have that all on one page, for the most part, it should work for Google as well.”

OK, so not a shining endorsement, but proof that Google is responding to alternative websites. He acknowledged their growth in popularity, so, even if they are not entirely Google friendly, I’ve no doubt that they will be some time in the future.

 

6.  More Fluid Design

It is so often the case with multi-page websites that the home page looks fantastic, whilst the others look nothing more than an afterthought. The joy of  single page site is that design is a strong element as you only have the one page, ensuring it flows better whilst making a strong design statement.

 

7.  Cost Saving

Because one page sites tend to be smaller, they will save you web space and bandwidth, which will in turn reduce your hosting costs.

 

8.  Cuts the waffle and gets to the point

Because there is less space in a single page website, the content should in theory be relevant and concise, ensuring a better user experience.

 

9.  SEO

This is an argument which doesn’t sit particularly well with me, but in the interests of fairness I feel I should add it. After reading an awful lot about this subject, this argument consistently crops up, so here it is…It is claimed by some digital marketing specialists that single page websites rank better in Google as the ranking will be applied to the whole site as there is only one page. This argument would certainly stand if the site is aimed towards only one product of service, but gets  little blurry where multiple products are concerned. Make of this argument what you will!

 

10.  Creativity

In my humble opinion this is the main reason for one page websites, as seen in the examples I have given. Single page websites come into their own for those who want a stand out, creative and original website.

These types of sites work particularly well with graphics and animation, which without doubt ensure your site stands out from the crowd. Just take a look at these sites, more wonderful examples of truly great one page sites.

My Pizza Oven

Every Last Drop

Von Dutch

Disadvantages of single page websites

1. Limited Meta Descriptions

Because there is only one page, it stands to reason that there is only one title tag and one meta description, meaning that you are somewhat limited as to which keywords you can focus on. Perfect if you only have one product or service, less so if you have more than one.

 

2.  Limited Analytical Data

Having all of your information on one page makes it difficult to glean analytical information. In order to give your website visitors the best user experience, it is often necessary to look into information such as bounce rates,  time spent on each page, and where traffic is being lost. From this information you can proceed to make relevant and necessary changes. This priceless information gets a little difficult to decipher when it all relates to one single page.

 

3.  Difficult to add new information

With a traditional, multi-page website, if you introduce a new product or service, you can simply add an additional page to your site, with corresponding meta tags. Unfortunately it is not so simple with a one page site. Yes, of course you can add additional information, but you risk negatively impacting the design impact, and possibly making the page too long, in addition to not being able to add relevant keywords to the meta tags. So, for a business which is likely to expand it’s products or services, a 1 page site is probably not for you.

 

4.  Longer Load Times

Due to the size of the page, it may take much longer to load than a traditional website, which risks losing your user before they have even seen your site. Site load times are also a factor in Google’s rankings, something to bear in mind.

 

5.  Difficult to find relevant information

As all information is contained on one page it can often be difficult for the end user to find relevant information, leading users to desert their search in favour of a more easy to navigate site.

 

6.  Linkbuilding

It has been argued by many industry experts that it is more difficult to get links when they are all pointing to the same page. This can have the effect of reducing a sites credibility.

 

7.  Limited Content

Limiting your site to one page means you will undoubtedly need to condense your content. OK, the content may be relevant, but perhaps not in-depth enough to gel with Google’s Hummingbird update which matches search queries to relevant content. A multi page site with a whole page dedicated to a single search query will more often than not outrank a single page site with merely a paragraph on the subject.

 

8.  Google & Javascript

The reason that many single page websites look so fantastic is down to the use of Javascript. Whilst this undoubtedly adds a whole different dimension to sites, it is not something which is easily crawled by search engine spiders. Whilst Google’s Matt Cutts has suggested that Google “has gotten better at handling javascript”, this is still being questioned within the industry. If in doubt, and ‘if SEO is important to you and your business, stick to HTML and a multi-page site!

 

9.  Shareable Content

In this age of social media, ease of shareable content should be part of every web design. Perhaps there is one part of the site which a user would like to share with a friend via social media. With single page sites, this just isn’t possible, and your friend will have to search through the whole site to find the relevant snippet of information.

 

10.  Bookmarking

Users of one page sites unfortunately cannot bookmark specific URL’s within the site.

 

Conclusion

The thing that I love most about writing blogs is that the opinion I finish with is rarely the same as the one I started with.

I don’t think that single page sites are a passing design fad, so we can’t dismiss them, and nor should we, but, just be aware of their current limitations.

Whilst there are considerable drawbacks to single page websites, namely in SEO stakes, I concede that in some instances, they are the perfect vehicle. Product launches, resumes, events, or for companies who are very established names already – all these cry out for one page sites.

Whilst researching this blog I have stumbled across some of the best websites I have ever seen, and the reason they work so well is because they are single page sites.

It stands to reason that different sites work for different topics. There is no one size fits all Don’t get a single page website to be on- trend, get one because it’s the best fit for your product or service.

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