A tale of two landing page macros

This is a post about two macros that are used for building landing pages:

SubpagesWithSummaries: this gets a list of the subpages of the current page, with their summaries, and arranges them in a <dl>.

It’s currently used in 19 en-US pages and 159 pages in all locales.

Sample page.

LandingPageListSubpages: this calls SubpagesWithSummaries and then formats the result into two columns by calling another macro, MakeColumnsForDL.

It’s currently called from 37 pages (en-US) and 409 pages in all locales.

Sample page.

So the only difference is: one formats the results in two columns. From the pages that use these macros, it’s not obvious to me that choosing one rather than the other was an informed choice by the author: more likely, someone used whichever one they found first that did more or less what they wanted.

I think it’s better to be consistent here, and pick one format - 1-column or 2-column - for lists of links to pages, and retire the other macro. If we wanted to do this, which format would we prefer?

If I were making a principled choice between these two macros, I would use the single-column one for API-ish pages and the double-column one for classic landing pages. I would also tend to use two columns when the list of things is very long.

If I had to use only one, it would be the single-column version, because using two columns for a short list looks silly, whereas using one column for a long list merely results in a long list to scroll through.


Thank you Janet.

Another factor is that where the items are alphabetized, one column makes it easier to find things, because you just scroll down till you find the place. With two columns you have to look at the second column, work out which column the thing you are looking for is in, and then scroll, scanning the appropriate column. Except of course that noone actually does that, they just scroll, and have to go back up when the item is in column 2. I’ve seen people getting stuck like this in user testing, on this page: https://developer.mozilla.org/en-US/docs/Web/CSS/Reference I think.

I also think I’d generally prefer the single column version. Easier to deal with for responsive too, and yes, less confusing.

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