To Scroll or not to Scroll?

November 13th, 2009 | Debut

I am amazed how often scrolling on a website is called into question. Some clients truly feel that it is an extreme faux pas. When asked why,  the client will give responses ranging from their own laziness (and unwillingness to scroll), the hope of getting more impressions/exposure for ads, or the fear that their audience won’t think to dig deeper and check out what is further down the page. The client will instead prefer the idea of many pages with less information.

To defend the ubiquitous paradigm of the scroll, I often refer to the namesake.

Scrolling

Scrolls were likely invented as a way to protect and keep paper based messages in order. You can imagine carrying around loose pages would be cumbersome and fraught with difficulties. Like webpages it would be easier to read the first section, but the reader would have to scroll to read the rest.

The metaphor works. Consider the option to have many pages; it is far easier for the reader to deal with one scroll that deals with the text than sifting through a few dozen little strips of paper.

In fact, multi-page posts are often decried by the hardcore as being one of the “worst things on the Internet”. If you have any doubts  read some of the comments on sites like Digg.com; “Buried for 20 pages“, “View the printable version for one page“, “Mirror!“. It happens every day.

Scrolling works, and is the simplest solution for organizing content. A quick peek at some of the top websites of the world shows a lot of sites that scroll (with the exception of search engine front pages, or login pages for sites like Facebook)

The client has an excellent point though, the real estate at the top of the screen is vitally important. Designing “above the fold” is a major consideration that has to be addressed. That will be the first impression your site makes; it has to be the right one.

Likewise, I’m not advocating dozens of browser-heights of straight text. The content should be broken up into logical pages. The content itself will be easier to digest with a modest smattering of helpful and relevant images and breaking some content up into lists (oh how the Internet loves lists).

If someone you know hates scrolling, please tell them how this post ends as they likely didn’t read it.

4 Responses to “To Scroll or not to Scroll?”

  1. Tim Lum says:

    It’s horizontal scrolling that we should be advocating.

    PS. This post was exactly 2341 pixels long until this comment : )

  2. Bob Saget says:

    Dinosaurs!!! Go get a newspaper then! :P Oh no, I have to turn the page?!?!?!

    Horizontal would be nice(my twin 23″ would love it!), but totally impossible because of Dinosaurs! They tend to only have 17″ 4:3 monitors. They require scrolling more than anyone!

    SCROLL MORE DINOSAURS!

  3. ArleyM says:

    @Bob, classic. Admittedly, the clients who comment about scrolling being an issue are over 50, generally speaking.

    But remember, one day we’ll be that old.

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