Website design: To scroll or not to scroll?
In the first of Freshfield’s Digital Bootcamp blogs, our digital development consultant Steve Baker explores whether the website design scrolling argument is myth or fact.
The old statement that people generally don’t like to scroll websites, so anything important on a web page has to be ‘above the fold’, is an antiquated idea from the very early days of the web.
‘The fold’ originates from the newspaper industry where positioning a story above the fold on a broadsheet paper could increase readership. Since newspapers are displayed and sold flat, if the headline or photo was compelling it could increase sales.
Why the fold doesn’t matter anymore
When the web was young newcomers didn’t understand how a web browser worked and monitors were small, so, like in the newspaper industry, things seen within the boundary of the home page screen were deemed to be above the fold. The school of thought was that something visible within these standard dimensions was more likely to be seen, read, and clicked on.
Today high resolution monitors are standard and their dimensions vary wildly. Laptops come in all sizes and shapes and we now also have an assortment of smart phones and tablets. If you open a page on a smart phone it will either resize the content to fit or you’ll need to scroll.
Nowadays scrolling is natural. For a continuous and lengthy content, like an article or a tutorial, scrolling provides even better usability than slicing up the text to several pages.
Research proves that people do scroll
Many studies have been conducted to test the validity of ‘the fold’ argument and they’ve all shown that today’s users are happy to scroll. These studies have shown that people use the scrollbar on 76 per cent of pages, with 22 per cent being scrolled all the way to the bottom regardless of the length of the page.
Eye-tracking tests have also confirmed that people do scroll, especially if the page is designed to encourage scrolling. This is because users can read long, scrolling pages faster than paginated ones.
In 2011, Apple removed the scrollbar from Mac OS X. This clearly shows that people are so familiar with scrolling that they don’t even need the visual clue for it. Often less content above the fold will encourage exploration beneath. If the design tantalises that more exists below – scrolling is almost guaranteed.
So, if you’re clinging to the old ‘above the fold’ way of thinking and your content is squeezed to the top of the browser, you’re doing a disservice to your website and web visitor. Designing a compelling page layout is more important. People will scroll provided what you put lower on the page is worth scrolling for.
Freshfield’s Digital Bootcamp series
What does this mean for my brand? The world of digital marketing evolves extraordinarily quickly, making it very difficult for busy marketers and business owners to keep pace. Help is at hand in the form of Freshfield’s monthly Digital Bootcamp blog, where our digital consultants answer our clients’ queries in a simple and straightforward manner. If you’ve got a digital marketing question for us, e-mail it to email@example.com.