The Pros and Cons of a One-Page Website

Written by Wholegrain Team - April 29, 2016

Multi-page websites have long been the established norm, but there’s been a growing trend over the past two or three years for a one-page website. A one-page, or single-page, website uses a single HTML page to display the entire site. The content is divided by section and the website doesn’t have a menu – content is accessed by scrolling down the page.

Slick, visually appealing and easy to scroll on a mobile device, one-page websites are challenging the norm and giving web designers a new option for structuring content and helping your website to stand out from the crowd.

But are they right for your business or organisation? Before you jump on the bandwagon, here are some of the pros and cons of one-page websites.

One-Page Websites: The Pros

First, the good stuff.

  • User Engagement: The purpose of a website is to engage with your visitors and communicate a specific message, and a one-page website offers you greater opportunities to do just that. Visitors can become bored by large blocks of text, but by telling a story by scrolling down the page, you will captivate your viewers and keep them engrossed as you build to your message.
  • Improved Information Flow: The flow of information is well structured and you have better control of what your visitors see than on a multi-page site, where people have a tendency to jump around possibly missing some important information as they do. A one-page website offers a seamless, intuitive user experience.
  • A Better Quality Website: Multi-page websites take much longer to create because web designers needs to incorporate page-by-page design and page optimisation. Sometimes this can lead to an emphasis on quantity over quality. By focusing on a single page, web designers can create a strong, consistent design, which leads to a more immersive experience for your visitors.
  • Higher Conversion Rates: Design, beauty and storytelling are all very well, but for your website to be successful there is only one thing that really matters: your conversion rates. Whether your goal is to build an email list, sell more products or services, generate more leads, or promote a person or cause, a single-page website has a strong conversion funnel. No more clicking on tabs and waiting for pages to load, everything you need is on a single page – simple, but effective.
  • Time & Cost Efficient: A single-page website is much quicker to design and develop than a multi-page site and that has a huge impact on cost – which accounts for their popularity with cool, new start-ups.
  • Works on all Devices: One-page websites are much easier to optimise for mobile devices, and they create a uniformity across all sites. Mobile users are especially used to scrolling to find the information they require, plus the scrolling action is much easier on a mobile than clicking through tabs. There is also an argument that user behaviour has changed on traditional computers as well, with many sites such as Twitter and Facebook based upon a scrolling experience.
  • Stand Out from the Crowd: Finally, while one-page websites are growing in popularity they are still different enough to help you stand out in an increasingly crowded online space.

One-Page Websites: The Cons

Now, the downsides.

  • SEO: One-page websites can be great for SEO. Having lots of content on a single page helps to keep the Googlebots interested, plus with all inbound links focusing on one page, your rating will soar. However, there are more negatives than positives when it comes to SEO for one-page sites. It can be very difficult to optimise the page for a few keywords without it appearing spammy, and you only have a single title tag, meta description and URL to play with.
  • Page Size & Load Time: One-page websites often include flashing graphics and animations to help guide the user on their journey, but this type of page can become large and bloated, which has a detrimental effect on your page-loading time. And we all know how quickly users get bored and reach for the back button…
  • Content Overload: If you have a lot of information to share, it can be difficult to structure your site correctly so it doesn’t overwhelm your visitors. While there are plenty of good examples of site architecture for multi-page websites, there are fewer examples to use for inspiration on single-page sites and correctly balancing the site can be more difficult to achieve. This makes it difficult for businesses with multiple products or services to successfully promote and sell their goods.
  • Confuse Your Visitors: Your visitors will always land on the top of the page when directed from an external source and will have to scroll down to find the information they need. This can frustrate and confuse your visitors, leading to them clicking on the back button. A one-page website can also be generally disorienting to a user used to more traditional sites.
  • Difficult to Share: With all your content on a single page, it can be difficult for users to share something from your website, as most sharing will be directed to the top of the page. This can also have a negative impact on your SEO.
  • Less Insight from Google Analytics: Analytics provide valuable information on how your website is performing – what’s working and what’s causing people to click away. With all your information on a single page, the only useful information you’ll be able to glean is who your visitors are and how long they stay on the page.

The Suitability of a One-Page Website for Your Business

With a number of advantages and disadvantages to one-page websites, the best way to decide on their suitability for your business or organisation is by carefully analysing your needs and the requirements for your website.

If you are promoting a one-off campaign, like the Dangers of Fracking website, or trying to tell a single story, like this Movement of Data information site, a one-page website could do the job perfectly. Likewise if you are promoting a creative business such as a photographer or designer, it could be the perfect way to showcase your creativity, as demonstrated by Stephen Verhalleman. They can also work well if you focus on selling a few products or services.

However, if you have a lot of content to include on your website, or you are selling multiple products and services, they are far less likely to accommodate your needs.

If you like the visual appeal of a one-page website, but are uncertain about the downsides or find them unsuitable for your needs, one possible solution would be to incorporate a one-page design to your home or landing page, then create the rest of the website as normal. That way you can benefit from some of the advantages and special effects, without being affected by the downsides.

What do you think of one-page websites? Are there any advantages or disadvantages you’d like to add to our list? Tell us below.