One aspect of partial versus full entries on blog front pages

January 4, 2014

One of the eternal discussions and differences in blogging is whether your blog's front page has full entries or just some form of excerpts, with readers having to click through to read full entries. There are plenty of blogs that go either way and I expect that there are decent arguments for both positions. Wandering Thoughts is a full-entries blog for a very simple reason: I happen to think that full-entry blogs are simply easier, not at a technical level but at a writing level.

(One argument for partial-entry front pages I've read is the increasing rise of mobile devices and other things with relatively small screens. Partial-entry front pages give users of such devices a relatively compact overview of your writing without a wall of text effect. Similar logic may apply even on full sized displays if you write a lot of long entries.)

With a partial-entry blog, some portion of the front of your entry is effectively an abstract or a teaser for the full entry. You can't simply write whatever first sentence, paragraph, or whatever you normally would if you were simply writing a full entry; you need to always keep this additional usage in mind. I know that I've written any number of first paragraphs that would most emphatically not work as this sort of introductory teaser. For recent examples of what I'm talking about, the first paragraph of this entry would probably work fine but I'm pretty sure that the first paragraph of this one doesn't really.

(I'm picking the first paragraph here simply as a common division point and using it as an example. It's not required to always be this and in fact you probably want to customize the division point on an entry by entry basis rather than fit everything into the procrustean mold of a single teaser paragraph.)

I also don't think that good writing requires you to write first paragraphs that work this way. Sometimes you will be writing in a form where the first paragraph naturally frames your thesis or otherwise is a good introduction, but not always; there are perfectly good forms where this doesn't happen and you can't neatly slice off some reasonable amount of the front and having something that will draw people in. At the very least I believe that even if this way is arguably better writing it's neither clearly superior nor easy writing; you will be working harder to carefully craft the lead-in than you would be if you wrote the entry without having to consider this and you are probably not going to get a major overall quality payoff for it.

So the short version is that Wandering Thoughts has full entries on the front page because I don't want to make my writing that much harder by thinking about division points and standalone first paragraphs and so on when I'm writing entries.

(Of course real blog usability suggests that this whole issue may not matter too much. How many visitors even look at your front page anyways? (Perhaps I should generate stats for that someday.))

Comments on this page:

At first I was going to comment here, but it turned into a sufficiently content-full piece that I decided to publish it on my own blog:

On my blog I compromise somewhat: the full text of the latest entry always appears, but earlier entries are just the "teaser" text with a link. That's at least partly because my blog entries tend to be on the long side, and I want to limit the length of my blog's front page. Your entries tend to be relatively short, so this isn't as much of an issue.

And then there’s me doing something apparently entirely unique – though in my case, an abstract is shown the archive page rather than the front page (which is full-entry like yours – though using a length limit calculation that also appears entirely unique).

By cks at 2014-01-05 03:01:22:

Custom-written summaries of some sort that are only used outside of the main entry are at once both the best answer and the most extra work (because now you're writing some amount of words that aren't part of the main entry at all and won't be seen as part of it). I think your approach of adding single-sentence summaries to your titles works great on an archive page, but I'm not sure it'd make for a good front page; it strikes me as a little bit too minimal.

(This leads into a big ramble about blog front pages that I'm going to punt to an entry rather than try to wedge into a comment.)

Written on 04 January 2014.
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