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Consider the very common scenario where someone writes a series of articles (Parts 1 through n). With my publisher, Simple-Talk.com, for example, independent of whether I send them one at a time or send all 12 parts at once, they want to publish them over time (e.g. perhaps one per month), which is certainly reasonable. At the time part 1 is published, therefore, part 2 does not yet exist in net-space. So one cannot have a link to it, obviously. When part 2 is published, though it could and should have a link to part 1. This repeats for each subsequent part providing links to earlier parts of the serial.

Now along comes someone searching for articles on widgets, and a web search turns up part 4. (Yes, ideally a web search that finds part 4 of a series should find all of its parts but in my experience this is assuredly not the case.) So my question comes into play here: how does one find the later parts of this multi-part article? Indeed, how does one even know that there are more parts? The answer to the latter is beyond the scope of this question; basically that requires finding hints in the article itself (e.g. "in a later part I will discuss..." or "... and that concludes the widget series.").

Example: This series has nine parts (I think!)--and it lets you, as discussed above, find the earlier parts with a click:

part 6 with earlier links but no later links

But this one, while having great content, does not make it at all easy to get to earlier parts. I managed to find all eleven parts, but it took 3 or 4 web searches (to find "part eight" and "part 10", among other nuances):

part 7 with no earlier nor later links

I have not come up with a complete solution but I think the following is at least an improvement. In my own series on FitNesse I provide earlier links and later titles so one may glean the total number of parts and, if not direct links, the titles to search for. This fits within the current limitations of most publishers (or self-publishers) who would (understandably) not want to go back to each earlier part and update links every time a new part comes out.

part 3 with earlier links and later hints

I still do not find that terribly satisfying--it should be easy to find subsequent parts and it still is not. Suggestions?

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List of upcoming articles, disabled until they are published

I think the biggest issue to deal with (from my own writing experience) is that when you're writing part 1, you probably don't even know what the later parts will be yet, how many of them there are, let alone what they'll be called. So this makes it difficult to show (even a disabled) list of upcoming articles in the beginning of the creation of a multi-part article series. But if you've done all your planning ahead of time, that's certainly a viable solution.

Dynamically updated list of articles

Something I'd rather do is implement some kind of dynamically updating list. Maybe using some AJAX to retrieve data from a central server that has references to all the articles as well as the current state of that list (e.g., if articles are still being added, as new ones come online, the list is appended). This way, old articles, as they're loaded, will retrieve the most up-to-date list and jam that into the DOM of that old article giving users the ability to find the rest of the related content. This doesn't necessarily need to be AJAX either and could be rendered on the backend so the server sends static HTML back to make it more SEO friendly. But this requires a bit of technical know-how which a writer might not have or might not be able to implement given the content platform.

Manually updated list of articles

The simple, but more time-consuming method, would be to simply go back and manually update all articles with the most up-to-date list. Even if the series is 10 articles long, it's not really that much work to copy and paste some links into each of the other articles (5 minutes for each update?). This option should work on any content platform, is a low-tech (easy) solution, and allows for the article list to be updated as articles are written.

All articles should be accessible

Whatever the updating method is, I believe that ideally it would be useful to have a complete list of all articles in the series; with disabled list of upcoming articles so that as I'm reading the current article I can place that content in context and know what's coming up next, look forward to it, and likely come back for more (increase readership/conversions).

But realistically, as the writer, I probably haven't completely nailed down how my series will evolve yet and will likely be figuring that out as I go, making the list an unknown at the time of the first article's writing. In this case, as a reader, I'd at least like to know that the article is part of a series and would like all published articles of the series to be accessible from all articles (which means updating that list somehow whenever new articles come out).

Given that you'll have a list of links pointing to all articles in the series, this info should be right at the top of each article as meta data for the article currently being viewed. If it were placed at the bottom of a long article, it might not be obvious that those links exist, plus readers would miss the context of the current article which could add useful information that would help understanding the currently displayed content.

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I definitely agree with your main tenets, Rob. Very thorough, thank you. –  Michael Sorens Nov 13 '13 at 19:36
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The blog you mentioned in your question has tags, so they could be used to union all parts of your articles series. But your publisher doesn't support tags And this is not solution in your case.

If your publisher support editing of previously published articles so you can place list of parts into the very first article and update it after each article are published. At the end of each article you need to place a reference with link to this first part with parts list. E.g., instead of More to Come... something like More to read...

If ypur publisher doesn't support article update (hmm) you can provide a link to site category which contains your articles - as for now all 4 parts are listed at one page and are easy to find.

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Tags for the blogpost series is the simplest implementation; along with minor post-publish editing to include 'Next-in-series' links. –  RedSirius Nov 13 '13 at 17:42
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