Content, Advertising and Navigation on About.com

About.com is one of those web sites that has a page about almost everything. They have pages about heartburn, and St. Louis, and Maglev trains.

I started to notice that I was actually having a difficult time ignoring the ads on their site. It appeared that the the actual content was dwarfed by the sheer volume of advertising.

On the right is a screen-capture of the About.com page on "President's Hot Chocolate"

The content is in the middle of the page, it reads a little like this:

 

President's Hot Chocolate
From Sean Paajanen,
Your Guide to Coffee / Tea.

Hot chocolate that's good enough for the White House, with both milk and light cream.
INGREDIENTS:
6 tbs unsweetened cocoa powder 
6 tbs sugar 
2 1/2 cups milk 
2 1/2 cups light cream 
1/2 tsp vanilla 
Cinnamon, whipped cream and orange zest 
PREPARATION:
Add sugar and cocoa to milk and heat in a saucepan until dissolved. Add the cream, cinnamon and vanilla. Heat until almost boiling. Mix well and serve, topped with whipped cream and a bit of orange zest.

 

 

I wanted to determine the ratio of ads to actual content, so I highlighted the different sections of the page in three colors:

  1. Green for Content

  2. Red for Ads

  3. Blue for Navigation (Links)

Notice how the green content of the page takes that little zigzag on the page, switching from the second column to the third column? It leads your eyes right onto an ad, and it requires a moment to retrace the vein of content.

 I don't know who invented that zigzag content structure, but I hope they got a raise. Depending on your perspective, that designer is either a genius or a rat-bastard.

I was most surprised by the abundance of space dedicated to navigation (colored blue). 

 

Narrowly avoiding a pixel-by-pixel survey, I cut and moved the different sections into three discreet blocks of color: Content, Advertising and Navigation. I excluded the dimensions of the pop-up ad.

Halfway through this exercise, I had a Tetris Flashback, and had to be talked down.

Here are the results: 11% content, 41% advertising and 48% navigation.

Wow! That's a hell of a lot of navigation.

 

In the future, I expect to see more twists and breaks for the content column, more flashy advertising, and more compelling navigation blocks from About.com. 

Maybe, at some point, the ratio of navigation and advertising on About.com will grow to 100%!

If that ever happens, I hope I can read an article on it at Wikipedia.

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