The long-form page
Over the past year or so, I've been noticing some outstanding examples of what I've come to call a “long-form page”. It's a content type unique to the web, and the best definition I can give it is:
A long, elaborate treatment of a dedicated subject with a lot of art direction to carry it well.
By comparing different examples, I've identified a list of properties displayed by most long-form pages. A long-form page:
- Devotes a dedicated URL to the treatment of a topic.
- Elaborates this topic in greater depth than a typical blog post does.
- Uses a well-crafted, flowing narrative.
- Is often art-directed (styled differently from other pages on the website) to make the design support the narrative in the best possible way.
- Makes heavy use of photography, graphics, video, and references to outside material for illustrative purposes.
- Most often has a high standard of usability and polish.
- Is sometimes standalone (i.e. is a one-page site).
- Is both educational (explains what the topic is) and practical (how to master the topic).
Most of all, it's a piece of content you'd enjoy away from the screen, slowly and with full immersion (hence print stylesheets for such pages are 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 Eat, Move, Improve. A great guide to bodyweight training fundamentals, this essay provided the backbone of a later book.
“How to Start Parkour: A Beginner's Guide” by Apex Movement.
“The Spine — How it Works, What Can Go Wrong, and How to Make it Stronger”. A guide by Gold Medal Bodies.
“Programming with Nothing” by Tom Stuart. Minimal art direction, just code sections supporting the narrative. Simple & 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.
The last one can be categorized as part design, part psychology, part behavioural economics. Not strictly a long-form page but a series of short summaries that expand into in-depth pages. Brilliant:
Cognitive Lode: Brain Gems for Decision Makers, by the brains at Ribot.
I feel that these examples really push the envelope as to what we regard “a web page”, by blending a high level of conceptual thinking, art direction, and educational value.
As an SEO tactic
…long–form pages are excellent, because they have all the ingredients users value: they are authoritative, helpful, and remarkable in more than one way. This makes users bookmark, engage, and share, which in turn sends signals to search engines about their high value.
I encourage you to experiment with this genre; it's a great option for the treatment of your core topics.