Often when discussing initial design ideas with clients, we’re questioned about scrolling. More to the point, we’re questioned on whether it’s really necessary. The usual reasoning for this is “if people don’t see my content immediately, they won’t bother scrolling down to find it at all”.
Scrolling - Everyone's Doing It
We’re not sure where the misconception that scrolling isn’t effective comes from, but there is a first and easy argument in its favour. We simply ask clients what websites on the internet are currently the most popular. The usual responses are Facebook, Amazon, Twitter, eBay and so on. These websites all have one thing in common… to navigate them, you have to scroll!
The internet-consuming public don’t care about having to scroll anymore - it has become such a natural action to take when visiting a website. There’s no need to cram content into a confined area. You could have all the space you could ever want to showcase your content in the cleanest, most compelling way possible.
Simply put, your visitors are scrolling on the websites they already spend most of their time on anyway, so why would they have a problem with doing it on yours?
A Scrolling-Related Browser Test
This blog post is clearly going to a be too long to appear in full on almost screen. Therefore, you’re going to have to scroll to read the rest of it. If you’ve been using the internet for any length of time, you might remember your web browser used to have a scrollbar down the right-hand side. Why don’t you try to scroll down this page by using that now? Most likely, you can’t (if you can, you should seriously look into whether there are any updates available for your browser of choice!) This functionality no longer exists because the likes of Google (Chrome) and Apple (Safari) are well aware there’s no need for it in a world where mobile browsing is the norm. They know everyone scrolls and they know they don’t need to highlight the fact that’s something you can do anymore.
Where does this idea of content having to appear immediately even come from?
The Answer = Newspapers!
The common term used to refer to what appears on screen when you first land on a website is the content ‘above the fold’. This term is traced back to the physical fold of a newspaper when it’s displayed on a rack. The main headline always had to be above the fold, so that it was visible to potential buyers. In web design, putting your main content above the fold may once have been a great idea, but then we got responsive design.
Responsive Design & Scrolling
If you aren’t familiar with the term ‘responsive design’, you will at least by now be familiar with the concept. When you view a website on a mobile phone or a tablet device these days, you’ll notice many websites literally respond to fit the screen. You should also be able to notice some very clear differences in how a website looks between your smaller devices and your desktop monitor.
Now, the importance of responsiveness in modern web design is a whole different topic altogether, but it is connected to the idea of scrolling in website design.
If you’re having a new website designed, it’s safe to assume that one of your key requirements is that it looks great on all devices. But having a website look great on a desktop monitor is one thing – transferring all of the copy to a small mobile phone screen, and it still making sense, is another. Scrolling allows much more flexibility.
Don't Fear The Fold
That’s not to say you shouldn’t put any thought into what appears above the fold. It’s still important to catch your visitors’ attention and make it clear what your website has to offer, but after that, you’re free to place whatever content you desire down below the fold. So long as you remember one thing – make it obvious to your visitor that there’s more to see!
This doesn’t have to be particularly complex, you could just add a button that says ‘Read More’. You could stagger your content in columns or deliberately continue it below the fold so that it’s obvious to people that there’s more to see.
If there is a clear call to action or design feature that makes it obvious you haven’t said everything there is to say on your homepage already, you shouldn’t have any reason to fear the fold.
You can read some further information, interesting thoughts and compelling points on the topic here.