A CLIENT DESIGNER recently wrote asking about the need for an index on a paper with only 10 pages. A copy of her newspaper’s index is shown above.
Here’s her note :
Like most small hometown papers, our page count is not what it used to be. So the question is, do you need an index for a 6-page A section and a 4-page B section? … We have daily refers to the obits and comics and sports, but my question is, do we also need an index? Seems silly to me.
Well, not to me.
Some reasons why I consider an index important—no matter how small the paper:
• An index does help readers (especially first-time readers or new subscribers) find the content they want. Will most readers eventually realize that your Opinion page is always page 4? I think so…but not carrying an index is a disservice to those first-time readers or new subscribers.
• Some content changes from issue to issue. You may carry a food page on Wednesday, a farm page on Saturday, a business page on Sunday.
• Carrying an index also sends an important message to readers (new readers and longtime subscribers alike) that you care about helping them navigate through your newspaper, that you pay attention to the details.
• And, speaking of details…the index above is way too general and too brief. Where are the police, fire and court listings? Am I expected to know that Dear Abby, the crossword and the horoscope are on the TV/comics pages? Why aren’t Classifieds listed?
• And, speaking of details…the index above has no real order to it. It’s not in alphabetical order (it should be!), nor is it in order of page number (to repeat: it should be alphabetical).
So, my answers in a nutshell:
• Yes, by all means carry an index.
• Make it compete, by listing items people will want to find, not just pages.
• Put it in alphabetical order.
I know some of you are bound to disagree with this.
Have at it.