I am working on trying to re-design the site for the agency I work for and a recommendation was made that we should move to a single page site with a vertical scroll which which walks through all the work that has been done. I am not a big fan of that since I am not sure how intutive that would. Is there research into what are pros and cons of a single page and when they should/should not be used as opposed to using a multipage site.
I don't know of much in the way of research, instead I will draw from my own experiences here.
The main difference between the two lies within the structure of information. With any site marketing its goods or services, you'll want to take the user on a journey, creating a story for them to follow. This is where the single page reaps huge rewards.
You control the flow of information here, rather than the user choosing their own path and flicking between pages (this is where important information can be missed). Although I have nothing to back this claim up, I also believe that a single page design has the psychological affect of seeming simple and free of any hassle. Which, of course, is what the consumer is ultimately looking for.
That said, and perhaps slightly off the topic of UX, a multi-page site can prove more beneficial in terms of SEO, as it will allow you to target keywords around specific topics/sections. One thing you'll struggle to do with a single page design.
Janis Lanka carried out some research using AB split testing on a shopping cart process, one design featuring multiple pages and the other containing each step on a single page. The results showed that conversions increased considerably when using the single page design, along with a few other surprising findings (such as an average increase in order value).
Fewer steps result in fewer distractions and reduces opportunities for customer to change their mind.
37signals did a AB-Test on their Homepage-site, where they experimented with an extreme long sales letter. It actually performed better, despite the "above the fold" mantra one hears often. As other answers said, the structure of the content was crucial - I recommend to read even the comments on their Case Study - Behind the scenes, because there is an analysis going on.
And you might be interested in the Life below 600px, which gives you some hints, how to visually guide visitors eye downwards.
Scratching Off-topic - the Fold Tester displays percentages of screen resolutions above your online page.
Likewise, an answer lacking in empirical research!
I've built lots of sites, both multi-page and single "long-scrolling" page. However, the latter have for the vast majority, been promotional microsites, with a single purpose/call-to-action or sign up and in that context they work well.
However, I'd never recommend a single-page scrolling site for a "full" company website. The division of data is important, a clear nav structure is important and can easily become obfuscated/confusing on a single page site, plus a "proper" site requires full, unique URLs for SEO/linking and relying on hashbangs is a filthy practice that deserves punishment.
I'm not sure how relevant this would be in the developed world with fast internet connections, but in the developing world a single page may take considerably longer to load (if you include a lot of high quality media) over a slow connection. If you are considering delivery to mobile platforms, it may also have an impact on delivery over slow cellphone carrier networks, or people with limited bandwidth plans.
I know it seems silly, but my gut reaction would be to at least have a choice of seeing a content-heavy page, or have that broken up over multiple pages. I'll hopefully get to see what I want, when I want, in smaller chunks (depending on my connectivity).
There have been written a lot of landing page optimizing and what I've read is that there seem to be a higher conversion rate when you keep everything on one (long) page instead of splitting up the content into several pages. There seem to be a couple of reasons for this:
- you have to rely on that the visitor really clicks through all the pages and that is not always the case. There could be for example other content that is distracting.
- It takes less effort to scroll than to click and wait for other pages to load.
- If the visitor doesn't really know what he or she is looking for it is more convenient for them to let you serve them the content on one page.