[map]A Temporal Pattern from
Patterns for Personal Web Sites

Incremental Growth

Web sites generally change in one of two ways: small, frequent updates, or large, infrequent site restructurings. The latter style has several problems:

  • There's too much to take in at once.
  • Returning visitors' mental maps of the site are rendered obsolete. This leads to many questions: does page X still exist? Where is it now? What's changed?
  • History disappears when pages change URLs. The visual cues that show visitors they've been there disappear.

In addition, sites that are rarely updated don't give visitors a reason to return.

The alternative is to make frequent small updates to your site. Small changes are easily digestible, and indicate to visitors that returning will be worthwhile.

Therefore, let your site grow in small, frequent increments.

Perhaps the best example of this phenomenon is blogs; the expectation of daily updates is one of the reasons for their success.

Frequent updates indicate that a site is a Living Site.

To help returning visitors keep track of what's new, maintain a History Page, or list recent changes on your site's Useful Home Page (or do both). Also, add Freshness Dates to pages.

Incremental Growth requires commitment on the creator's part. Daily changes to the site aren't required, but if the changes happen more than a month apart, the site will appear neglected.

Last updated 8 July 2003
All contents ©2002-2003 Mark L. Irons