Space illusion As bloggers, we all want to put as much content as we can on the page, but make it look like as little as we can.

It’s an interesting paradox, which doesn’t always have an answer.

In certain circumstances however, there are indeed ways of cheating the rule, and serving your readers better by doing so.

In this article, I will talk about the 5 main options available to you, and by knowing them, you might find ways to apply them to your own blog.

1 – Dropdowns

When you navigate the web, you are constantly given sets of choices and told to pick one. Links in a blogroll. Pages in a navbar. Countries in a signup form.

Sadly, dropdowns tend to make the information slightly harder to read than it would otherwise have been. And they have the stigma of being old-fashioned.

But on the plus side, they hide a lot of text until it is called for, preventing your page from getting cluttered.

It’s a balancing act with no set rules. Dropdowns work well on large lists of options, but not so well on small lists. The obvious example is a huge list of countries in a signup form.

We can go further than that however, and use dropdowns as a way of hiding information that is not going to be useful to the majority of your visitors. For example, monthly archives, and even category archives, may appeal to just a few of your visitors, so they could be dropped down.

2 – Pop-up Windows

Pop-ups are a black word in the internet world, and for good reason. They are slow to load, can’t simply be opened in a new tab, and have been abused by spammy advertisers for years.

The advantage of a pop-up is that it gives you a whole page to fill. Furthermore, it grabs a user’s full attention as they’ve just loaded a brand new page.

In general, pop-ups will annoy your users. As such, they should never be used for regular content, and only for links a user will only load once. e.g. Email subscription forms, eBook downloads and streaming videos players.

3 – CSS Overlays

CSS Overlays are a modern version of the pop-up. They allow you to load a new page over the current page. Have a look at Lightview to see some examples, and find out how to implement it yourself.

They have the advantages of loading faster, working better with new-tab-ers, and haven’t been abused for as long.

Underneath it all though, they aren’t that different to pop-ups. Overlays are best used for content that was too big for the current page, but too small to justify a new page, e.g. Loading full versions of thumbnail images, or a few paragraphs defining a term.

4 – Hidden Divs

Hidden divs allow users to toggle the visibility of certain content. You can read more about them and how to implement them, in my article, Cut Category Clutter and Toggle Visibility.

Hidden divs are a great way of hiding/showing little snippets of content that might otherwise cause clutter, such as lists of sub-categories and quick definitions. They can also be put to more creative use, such as hiding/showing answers to a quiz.

The drawback is that users won’t realise they’re clicking a toggle link as opposed to a real one. This will cause problems for people who attempt to open the link in a new window (It won’t load).

5 – DOMtabs

DOMtabs is a very clever implementation of the simple hidden divs mentioned above, and you can see them in use in the sidebar here, in the brown “Popular Posts” area. They allow you to tab your content into a smaller area.

The web site explains clearly how to set it up, and contains a few default styles already.

Odds are, you’ve seen DOMtabs before. It is perfect for bloggers wishing to add a few more widgets to their sidebar. My only advice here is that it probably works best for text content, as opposed to images. Visual content (e.g. MyBlogLog, RSS, Entrecard etc.) works by catching your eye, but if a person has clicked a tab to load the content, you already have their attention.

Beyond that, DOMtabs could be used to display multiple author bios in the sidebar or footer. It is also used very regularly in the homepage of “magazine” themes.

Those are the 5 best methods I know of. Do you use any of them on your blog? Or have you come up with something different altogether?

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