The smallest details can make or break your user experience (UX). Much of what we do on the internet is subconscious. We absentmindedly flip through screens, browse the web, and interact with content.
While what much of a user does might be subconscious, the back end must be hyper-conscious. Every aspect of your website must account for each user’s wants and needs at a given moment in time. Website designers must leverage customer data and personas to create tone, visual elements, and the perfect amount of complexity for their target user.
Scrolling is an often underrated but vital aspect of your user experience (UX). Learn how it can enhance or detract from your user experience and how to apply best practices that will keep your users engaged on your site.
Is Scrolling a Myth?
There is a commonly-held belief in some web design circles that people do not scroll. For this reason, some people still like to break up website content on separate screens or pages to minimise the practice. This is a mistake for a couple of reasons:
- Long-form content: Content marketers are increasingly turning to long-form content to help boost their search engine optimisation (SEO). Flipping through a five-page article can be tedious, especially if you are trying to navigate on a mobile screen. You might be more inclined to opt out of an article, how-to, or tutorial if it becomes too onerous to read.
- Touch screens: Mobile devices and touch-screen technology naturally lend themselves to scrolling. As these devices continue to dominate the market, scrolling will become a more standard practice.
These reports and studies from marketers and other researchers further support the need for scroll-friendly web designs:
- Data analytics provider Cheatbeat analysed over 2 billion website visits and found 66% of attention on a typical web page is “below the fold” – people scroll to get there.
- Eye tracking studies by usability guru Jakob Nielson found people tend to focus above the fold, but people still do scroll, especially when the page follows certain conventions that facilitate it.
- On a mobile site, around half of all users start to scroll within 10 seconds, and 90% within 14 seconds.
- A study from the Software Usability Research Laboratory shows that users read long, scrolling pages faster than segmented or paginated ones.
- Assuming designers follow scrolling design practices, people will scroll, according to an eye-tracking study by CX Partners.
To summarise these findings: if you build it well, they will scroll. The question becomes then, “how can I design my website to accommodate scrolling, and which best practices can I apply to my website’s design?”
Scanning and the Importance of Scrolling Points
Humans are scanners by nature. Scanning demands less mental effort than reading an article in its entirety, so we tend to scan the text until we reach something we deem important. This principle applies to more than just web design; it is the same reason supermarkets stock their more expensive or popular products in an eye-catching display and leave generics and less-expensive brands on the bottom shelf.
In web design, however, we break up the scanning with scrolling points. Failure to cluster relevant information throughout key points in a text can lead to a phenomenon called “scrolling fatigue.”
Scrolling fatigue has two results:
- The first is called “zombie scrolling” and refers to the idea that a user slowly loses their focus, tunes out their attention, and becomes less susceptible to your standard bait and hook or CTA.
- The second result is called “rage-quitting” or the “tl;dr” and occurs when a user becomes frustrated with scrolling and leaves a site without digesting its important points or getting any takeaway.
Consider the following tips and tricks while designing your web page to avoid these kinds of negative results and keep your users engaged until the end.
Cater Your Content
The first way to encourage scrolling is to design your content so it is easy to scroll through. Consider these actionable suggestions:
- Start strong: A good introduction will hook your readers and encourage them to scroll to the bottom. Offer some immediate insight and give them a reason to keep reading.
- Offer relevant facts throughout: The more relevant detail you provide your readers, the more likely they are to keep scrolling.
- Use images: A good image can help break up your content and keep readers interested in your content. Bear in mind, however, that stock imagery will not do much for your content. Stick to infographics and unique footage.
Watch Out for the False-Bottom Phenomenon
From a visual design perspective, there is one important thing you can do to encourage scrolling: avoid the false bottom.
This false bottom occurs when your website design fools users into believing there is no additional content below the fold. While the area above the fold is your prime real estate, it should also provide evidence that there is still valuable content that can be accessed by scrolling.
It is pretty easy to accomplish this visually. For example, arrange your content in a grid or card-based system and then simply cut off a grid above the fold, which will cue a visitor to scroll and see the remaining content.
Another way is to provide a visual cue such as an arrow or text that reads, “scroll down.” These are simple tricks that can provide a big boost in how much time a user spends on your site.
Navigation is one of the biggest make-or-break aspects of your website, so adjusting your navigation for scrolling is a natural solution. Long-form content can create navigation problems, and users can become frustrated with scrolling up and down in either desktop or mobile formats. A simple way to address this is with sticky navigation. When navigation is always visible, it makes it easier for app and website users to access content readily.
In the interest of saving valuable screen space, you can make your navigation menu available upon request, so it pops up on a screen when you scroll near the top of your viewing space. This works especially well for mobile devices, which naturally have a lot less space to work with.
Follow Basic SEO Guidelines
Long scrolling can result in a ding in your SEO but not if you follow basic guidelines. Check with Google’s best practices and recommendations to keep your website toward the top of the coveted search engine results page. Check your progress with Google analytics to see if your efforts are working or seeing if you need to make adjustments along the way.
Scrolling Pro Trips and Takeaways
If you thought scrolling was dead, think again. Long-form content and mobile devices are making scrolling more relevant than ever.
Users are able and willing to scroll below the fold, assuming a website makes it simple and intuitive.
Scrolling best practices include creating focus points, breaking up your content, constructing quality and engaging content, and formatting your navigation to accommodate scrolling.
With appropriate visual cues and intuitive design, you can increase your visitor’s website time and use scrolling to turn prospects into customers. Apply these tricks to your website – you will not be disappointed with the result.
Want to learn more?
Are you interested in the intersection between UX and UI Design? The online courses on UI Design Patterns for Successful Software and Design Thinking: The Beginner’s Guide can teach you skills you need. If you take a course, you will earn an industry-recognized course certificate to advance your career. On the other hand, if you want to brush up on the basics of UX and Usability, try the online course on User Experience (or another design topic). Good luck on your learning journey!
(Lead image: Depositphotos – affiliate link)