Tag Archives: scrolling

Don’t make me scroll

When I started work in the online world, we had to fit all our content into quite small screens. The first site I managed was built for 800 x 600 px screens. The site was an intranet, serving content to 9,500 postal employees, ranging from corporate desk dwellers to posties, couriers, truck drivers and everyone in between.

We had a lot of content, tools, lookups and directories and every man and his dog wanted a link on the home page. Yet somehow we created simple, easy to read pages with very little scrolling needed to find the content – none on the home page or any of the menu pages.

Today even laptop screens are around 1366 x 768 px and desktop screens are getting bigger and bigger. And today every other web page seems to need screen upon screen to display its content. Scrolling is the new black.

Why?

With all the space we have at our fingertips, why are we hiding content ‘below the fold’ or worse off the side of the screen?

A colleague told me a while ago that “people like to scroll”. What people? I thought. Bored ones? Ones with nothing better to do than traipse around websites in the hopes of finding something interesting to click on?

I don’t think so.

I think this new trend of long web pages comes from somewhere quite different.

Ego

smug

We’re all so proud of our fancy websites, we’ve forgotten that site visitors are only interested in what the site does. Specifically, what it does for them and the task they are trying to complete.

Today’s trend is to pack our sites with glossy graphics and funky designs. We’re taking up all the room we used to give to content. All these pretty design elements make us feel so good about our swish looking websites that we honestly think our site visitors will love them as much as we do and scroll around them to take in the full experience.

Given how many websites these days have huge hero banners on their home pages and top menu pages, are you surprised that I’ve come to this conclusion?

OK, so we have the i-generation, swiping around their tablets with gay abandon but research shows that they don’t really like scrolling either. And why would they? Scrolling (or swiping) means the site visitor has to think about what they’re looking for and hope that they’ll find it in that mysterious space ‘below the fold’.

There is a very good reason why Steve Krug’s book “Don’t make me think” is so popular among digital UX folk. People don’t like having to think through whether a website has what they’re looking for. They don’t want to have to go looking for content. They want it on the first screen they see – no guessing, no effort, no scrolling.

There is another possible source for the trend towards long, multi-screen web pages.

Laziness

garfield

As a web content producer, it’s so much easier to dump all your content onto one page. Breaking content up into manageable pieces takes effort:

  • You have to think how to split the content into pages that can each stand up by themselves.
  • You have to then decide how to link those pages so that clicking between them makes sense.
  • And you have to build multiple pages (GASP) and fit them into the site architecture.

This all takes time and effort which you could be putting toward doing something much more interesting or creative.

Why put in all that work when it’s so easy for site visitors to just scroll down a single page?

There is a simple reason – because they won’t scroll.

Despite the swiping craze of the i-generation and the current trend towards longer, banner-heavy pages, site visitors still are still reluctant to scroll too far below the fold. If you don’t give them a really good reason, like reading to the end of this article ;-), people won’t pay attention to content below the fold (they are 84% more likely to read content above the fold[1] than below).

So if you put a link or interesting piece of content or functionality one or two screens below the fold, only one in seven people who visit that page will even see it, let alone engage with it.

What’s wrong with designing shorter pages anyway? They’re quicker to load, easier to read and more likely to be seen in their entirety by site visitors. Sure, they take a bit more effort to create, but we’re digital professionals aren’t we? We like to put a bit of effort into our work – it gives us something to be proud of.

And think – if your content is broken across three pages, you get three page views out of each site visitor who engages with it not just one.

[1] The Fold Manifesto: Why the Page Fold Still Matters Amy Schade – February 2015

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Are we really happy to scroll?

Someone said to me recently “people are happy to scroll” on websites.

That comment got me thinking. People are happy to scroll. Are they? Is it really that simple? Does this mean we can create pages with as much content as we like, confident that our site visitors will happily scroll down from screen to screen until they find what they’re looking for?

It’d be nice, wouldn’t it, to not have to worry about keeping our pages short and succinct? Think of all that time you’d save not having to edit every page to keep it as focused and structured as you can.

Sadly I don’t think it’s that simple.

In a way, scrolling through web pages is very much like turning pages in a book or magazine. You’re happy to do it, but only if you are fairly confident that there is something on the next page that will interest you.

The comment was made to me by a colleague, when we were workshopping a new home page for the corporate website we both worked on.

I might have agreed with him if we were talking about a news release or blog page. These pages, by their very nature, lead us to scroll down the page to read them. But we were talking about the home page. This is the page people see when they first enter the site (well 40% of people, thanks to Google and a lot of SEO work, we had a fair amount of deep-site entries).

These people just typed in our URL and hit Enter. They had no context and no information to go on other than what they saw on that page. If the home page doesn’t show them something relevant to why they came to the site, why would they go any further?

When I’m looking a website home page, the only things I expect to have to scroll down for are news releases and the site footer.

As it was, I thought the comment very naïve and not based on customer behaviour.

Why do we scroll?

According to Amy Schade of the Nielsen Norman Group, the ‘fold’ (the bottom of the first screen you seen when you open a web page) is still a barrier to be aware of. The fold is a more complex beast these days, as it shifts around depending on the device your site visitor uses. But it’s still a very good idea to put the key points, or at least navigation links to the key points, of your page where your site visitors can see them without scrolling.

Why? As Ms Schade points out in her article The Fold Manifesto: Why the Page Fold Still Matters it is about interaction cost. Simply put, if you can’t see it, how do you know it is there? If a page has information that you want, but you can’t see it when you first open the page, you have to go looking for it – thus increasing your interaction with that page.

Imagine walking into a shop. Choose your favourite type, I’ll choose a clothing shop (I am female).

So you walk in and all you see are jeans, ads for jeans and the accessories that go with jeans – belts and the like.

Would you walk around the shop looking for business shirts? Maybe they have a rack of them out the back?

Now why would you do that if there is no indication that the shop sells anything other than jeans?

Of course, if the shop displayed a rack of shirts in amongst the jeans, you might have more reason to look further.

A simplistic example maybe, but I don’t think we’re that different in our thinking online than we are offline. If I don’t see at least a hint of what I’m looking for on a web page, I am very unlikely to scroll down that page looking for it.

So why did my colleague confidently tell me that “people are happy to scroll”? Well he (yes, he. I shall refrain from any gender based comments on pig headedness but feel free to make assumptions yourself) may have been thinking about smart phones and tablets and how we tend to swipe a lot on them.

He also could have been thinking that websites in recent years are a lot more content rich and therefore web site visitors are becoming accustomed to longer pages. Blogs, for example, very rarely fit in a single screen (I think I’m well into screen 2 or 3 here, depending on what you’re using to read this).

Personally, I think he just liked the design he’d copied off CommBank, but maybe I’m a little biased?

I could be old-fashioned but I still like to see headings or links to tell me what’s on a page.  Don’t expect me to randomly search down an overly long page just because you think I’m happy to scroll.

If you’d like some help tailoring your pages to stay ‘above the fold’ or you’d like to tidy up your site content, have a chat with F-Two consulting. We can help you teach your website how to talk your customers’ language.