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Tabbed Pages - Hidden Content, Usability?


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5 replies to this topic

#1 Eschtruth Harrison

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Posted 09 June 2008 - 06:56 PM

Does anyone have experience with a site that uses tabbed pages? In other words there may be a great deal of information on the page, but the tabs are used to display only a certain section of that information at a time. The user clicks a tab and stays on the same page but new information is now displayed in the tab. For example one tab might have a product description (tab1), another the specifications (tab2), another the colors available (tab3) and so forth. The page initially defaults to tab1 until the user clicks tab2 or 3.

All the information is within the <body> section of the page, but the user only sees info for the tab they have currently selected. From a user perspective it might be nice since all the information is available in one place without having to open additional windows.

I have a couple of concerns -

1. Would this be considered hidden text by search engines since not all the content is visible at the same time?

2. From a usability standpoint it seems a person might search for a phrase that is on tab2 (intially hidden) and they click a search engine result but end up seeing tab1 (the default tab). It may not be obvious that the information for which they are looking is located under tab2.

#2 Randy

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Posted 09 June 2008 - 09:07 PM

QUOTE
1. Would this be considered hidden text by search engines since not all the content is visible at the same time?


No, it's not a problem. Since the content can be made visible by a simple user interaction, you're fine.

QUOTE
2. From a usability standpoint it seems a person might search for a phrase that is on tab2 (intially hidden) and they click a search engine result but end up seeing tab1 (the default tab). It may not be obvious that the information for which they are looking is located under tab2.


This is definiately a concern, and frankly it says a lot of good things about your approach to biulding web sites that it made it into your question. Congrats on that!

With the usability and conversion testing I've done about all I can tell you is that there is no one size fits all answer. Each site is truly different and this is one you absolutely have to work out to keep from losing traffic that has a high probability of being buying traffic. The main two things from my tests of tabs I've noticed are:
  • The tabs need to have very good titles. Space is limited of course, so you need to make a concerted effort both to label the tabs well and make sure the information you provide in the tabs is well organized. It's easier to make the tab and then try to make the info fit within the broad potential subject matter of the tab label. I've found it much better to work it backwards. Assemble the information that fits together first, then figure out a tab label that is more meaningful.
  • People tend to miss the tabs in their first glance around the page. What may be completely obvious to the designer of the page simply gets missed by normal visitors. So it's best to make sure they use coloring and placement that will naturally draw the user's eye to them.

    Placement being that the tabs, of course, need to be close to (just above has worked best for me) the content they change. And you need to be cognizant of the fact that you don't want them right next to other eye grabbing graphics or headlines. They need a little separation for these other page elements. Coloring, something that's a Vibrant background in the tabs seems to work best for me. As well as a color that's not seen anywhere else on the page.


#3 Eschtruth Harrison

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Posted 10 June 2008 - 03:53 PM

Excellent suggestions. These are all important points to keep in mind. Thank you Randy.

#4 austinsem

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Posted 15 September 2009 - 03:35 PM

QUOTE(Randy @ Jun 9 2008, 09:07 PM) View Post
No, it's not a problem. Since the content can be made visible by a simple user interaction, you're fine.
This is definiately a concern, and frankly it says a lot of good things about your approach to biulding web sites that it made it into your question. Congrats on that!

With the usability and conversion testing I've done about all I can tell you is that there is no one size fits all answer. Each site is truly different and this is one you absolutely have to work out to keep from losing traffic that has a high probability of being buying traffic. The main two things from my tests of tabs I've noticed are:
  • The tabs need to have very good titles. Space is limited of course, so you need to make a concerted effort both to label the tabs well and make sure the information you provide in the tabs is well organized. It's easier to make the tab and then try to make the info fit within the broad potential subject matter of the tab label. I've found it much better to work it backwards. Assemble the information that fits together first, then figure out a tab label that is more meaningful.
  • People tend to miss the tabs in their first glance around the page. What may be completely obvious to the designer of the page simply gets missed by normal visitors. So it's best to make sure they use coloring and placement that will naturally draw the user's eye to them.

    Placement being that the tabs, of course, need to be close to (just above has worked best for me) the content they change. And you need to be cognizant of the fact that you don't want them right next to other eye grabbing graphics or headlines. They need a little separation for these other page elements. Coloring, something that's a Vibrant background in the tabs seems to work best for me. As well as a color that's not seen anywhere else on the page.


Hi Randy,

I am new to this forum and have a similiar question. I noticed that salesforce.com recently began using a method of tabbing content on all their pages specifically for seo benefit. At the bottom of each page is a gray tabbed section that is specifically designed for the search engines. It seems like a smart way of optimizing pages where there is not there is not as much flexibility with making changes to the main body copy of the page. Is this frowned upon or could it result in a penalty of any kind? Can the search engines see into the other tabs? Overall, do you think this is a smart way of optimizing a website when it is not possible to make changes to the messaging in the body copy of the page? Thank you for any insight you can provide Randy.

#5 Jill

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Posted 15 September 2009 - 10:29 PM

QUOTE
I noticed that salesforce.com recently began using a method of tabbing content on all their pages specifically for seo benefit.


What makes you think it's just for SEO?

QUOTE
Is this frowned upon or could it result in a penalty of any kind? Can the search engines see into the other tabs?


If it's done via CSS they can usually see all the content within the tabs and will count it towards that page (as it should be). You can view Google's text cache of the page to be sure.

QUOTE
Overall, do you think this is a smart way of optimizing a website when it is not possible to make changes to the messaging in the body copy of the page?


It's not an optimization method, but rather a way to provide content in different ways to people. As long as it makes sense to the actual human visitors, it's fine.

If they are indeed doing it just for SEO purposes, chances are it doesn't make sense to people and is poorly written, keyword-stuffed jibberish, in which case, nobody (including search engines) would like it much.


#6 austinsem

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Posted 16 September 2009 - 11:01 AM

Thank you Jill for the fast response! Makes sense to me




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