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As part of a new site design I've put in the functionality to track and count unique page views. This is predominately used to create a list of popular articles and blog posts.

Is there a negative or positive side effect of showing how many views a page has? My current thinking is that if a page has lots of views, the user would feel the content is more trustworthy (because people trust the majority). However, if the number is low, will this have the opposite effect of making people distrust the site?

Other than the problem of trust, is showing this information getting in the way of a better experience? Are we just throwing too much information at them?

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It's certainly a common pattern. Forums often show the number of views for each thread, Flickr shows the number of views for each photo and Stack Exchange displays the number of views for each question, for example. Are you considering using the number of views to change the order of things or way in which things are presented to the user, or just displaying the number as information? –  Matt Obee Jan 23 '13 at 17:27
    
I'll only be displaying it as extra information, unless it's in the "popular articles" list, in that case it'll change the order. Good point about Stack Exchange & Flickr, I was struggling to think of any existing examples. –  James Pegg Jan 23 '13 at 18:15
    
Just as a side note: Atleast in Finland some "news websites" show a short list of headlines of "most viewed news at the moment" next to every news article, and sometimes I feel really bad about clicking the headline of a really useless piece of news, because when I did click on it, I made it stay longer in the "most viewed" -section. So having the "most viewed" is not always showing the "best and wanted/liked" content, there might be some totally useless stuff, that for some reason has been viewed the most (like attractive/weird heading that makes you click on it). –  Samuel M Feb 6 '13 at 18:00

4 Answers 4

up vote 5 down vote accepted

Whenever you show people some new information, you have to think about what you are trying to achieve and what that user will do with the information. Only show them if they are relevant to an action that a user may take, or if you have some evidence that it will positively affect user behaviour more than it will distract.

In the case of page views, there are very few reasons to show them. The only ones that I can think of off hand apply to discussions as it tells you how many people have seen a question or conversation - which may affect your behaviour. For example, if you were to ask a question with 1k views but no answers, it may indicate that you need do improve your question.

In the particular case of StackExchange, badges are awarded for large numbers of views, and so that makes views relevant. You may also notice that it is only in the question listing that the views are clearly shown. When looking at the question, they are far less noticeable.

I do not see any good reason for you to include page views for anyone other than admins or moderators (if you have them). It will create an additional design element to handle and distract users from what you really want them to be doing.

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Thanks for this, we've decided to take your advice and remove the number of views from the design and find a better way to help users decide what content they want to read. –  James Pegg Jan 24 '13 at 21:50

Weather you show or not show page views very much depends on the type of content and type of users. Somethings that works great with mashable (i love it) doesn't have to work in a different context / for a different audience. Authors however probably love seeing page views.

BUT for whatever type of page view presentation you decide – after my opinion it would be crucial to put the number page views always in relationship to time. A raw number is of course already some additional information about the article (and in some cases, like here on stackexchange that works very well), but what does it actually say about the popularity of the article? If you're planning to put up a "popular articles" page you will run into the problem, that older posts will always appear to be more popular then brand new posts. So at least you should think of calculating the page views per day.

Comparing articles on a page listing "last months most popular articles" would for example be already a bit more informative than the raw numbers, but again you'll run into the problem that articles written on the 31st will look way less popular then articles from the beginning the month. Putting the page views in relationship "per day" will on the other hand make the articles comparable.

And last but not least: displaying absolute numbers, be it "page views" or "page views per day", might be a bit dangerous because absolute numbers are really very "strong" – and in the end an absolute number doesn't really say much. The way mashable works very well, because the DON'T show absolute numbers – instead you can rather see how an article lives it's life through different stages. So with one look at the graph you know if the article is a lame duck, a shooting star, or a social media rebirth etc… What I want to say: even if you know the "page views" and the "page views per day" you might consider having a different, probably visual representation – or a metaphor for that number…

…cheers! +…

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Why not try something like Mashable has? enter image description here

  • they use this "graph" to show how the article spreads in social media
  • it is fancy, looks nice

You could use something similar which shows the popularity of your article but not the exact number of visitors.

Anyways the question is, what kind of website do you have? Does the number of views would have an added user experience?

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This is a good approach if he's looking to show the trustworthiness of a page. People may click into a page they don't wind up trusting, but only share it after that trust has been established. Really, there's no way to 'trust' a page until you've already clicked into it and registered that view in the system. –  Matthew Moore May 9 '13 at 19:32

You've actually answered your own question. Considering your content, it is fine to show the number of views a specific article/post has received. It shows activity, which is always a good and it's quite a common practice nowadays.

However, you're correct when this can have a reverse effect. If every post has 10-20 views, it can dampers the importance of the content which in term affects the value of the site itself.

To answer your last question, I do feel that this functionality provides valuable feedback on what the community is interested in. Personally, I tend to look only at popular posts/articles myself and it guides my decision on which ones are worth looking at.

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