The long-form page
Over the past year or so, I've seen some outstanding examples of what I call art-directed long-form. An emerging content type that's unique to the web, and can be defined as:
A lengthy, in-depth treatment of a particular subject, supported with references, and designed with custom art direction.
By comparing long-form pages across different industries, I've compiled a list of properties they usually have. A long-form page:
- Treats a topic within the scope of a dedicated URL.
- Elaborates the topic in greater depth than a typical blog post.
- Employs a thought-out narrative.
- Is often art-directed (styled differently from the other pages on the website) with the aim of supporting the text through multimedia.
- Often has a high standard of UX.
- Is sometimes a standalone (one-page) site.
- Is both educational (elaborates a topic) and practical (gives actionanable information on what to do with, or master the topic).
Most of all, it's a piece of content designed for slow consumtpion. In fact, I've printed out several such pages so I can enjoy them off-screen!
(Hint: taking the time to design a print stylesheet is a great idea!)
Some great examples spanning a variety of topics — they provided the material for the list of characteristics above:
- “Fundamentals of Bodyweight Strength Training” by Stephen Low. A great guide to bodyweight training fundamentals, this essay provided the backbone of a later book.
“Programming with Nothing” by Tom Stuart. Minimal art direction, just code sections supporting the narrative. Simple and effective.
“How I Would Fix Grantland’s SEO: An In-Depth Audit” by Web Gnomes. A mammoth case study documenting how SEO really should be done.
I feel that these examples really push the envelope as to what we regard “a web page”. They are a high-level blend of conceptual thinking, art direction, and educational value.
Long form and SEO
SEO is probably the main reason why this genre of web design is gaining momentum with webmasters. Depending on the topic and the word count, a well thought-out long-form page has all the ingredients for rising to the top of search engine results pages.
Users value and share authoritative, reference-grade content. The best long-form pages are self-contained, indexable e-books built with web technologies. Users engage with them which in turn sends signals to search engines about their high value.
Edited September 2022.