When is it okay to lose browsability?

By Deane Barker on August 15, 2008

One of the things I struggled with in the redesign — and still haven’t completely figured out — is when it’s okay for some content to no longer be browsable. By “browsable,” I mean “non-orphaned” — a page that has an inbound link from some index page.

Consider the New York Times. They put their archives online — every article from 1851 forward. Some 13 million articles.

Do you think every article is browsable? Can you navigate through a series of index pages to find an article about some event in 1912? Probably not.

At a certain point, does content get “retired” to search only? When is it okay for something to not appear on an index page, and only be found via contextual links from other content and search?

While we don’t have 13 million articles, we are approaching 7,000. With the redesign, we removed the browsable category pages from Gadgetopia. You used to be able to scroll back through the categories, but logs show that it wasn’t used that much, and the value of it was questionable anyway. With the current format, there are links two perhaps 50 posts per category, which I’m hoping is enough.

The way it sits now, there are multiple ways to find older articles that have fallen off the index pages:

  1. Links within the text of a post. I link from post-to-post a lot. There are four in this post alone.
  2. Links from the “Related Posts” and the “What Links To/From Here” sections.
  3. Search. The searching system on this site is quite good and rarely fails me.

I’d be interested in opinions on this. When is it okay for something to lose its browsability?

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