One of the big rules in making a Web site "usable" from the very start of the Web was that no one scrolls on a page. Is this still true?
The answer, as always, is... it depends. Even Jakob Nielsen, the premier usability expert says that "In more recent studies, we have seen that most users scroll" in some cases. So, 14 years after his first usability experiments, it's finally OKAY TO SCROLL A LITTLE. That makes things a little easier, but it still doesn't mean you should go crazy with the long pages.
When it comes to scrolling, there are a few things to consider:
- Whenever possible, put primary and secondary navigation, as well as key messages above "the fold," or the bottom of the first screen-full of information. People will scroll down if they see information they deem worthwhile, but you still want to catch their eye and give them a reason to scroll down.
- Remember context. When someone is on the 3rd level down from the home page, they are doing more than 'browsing' your site. They are interested in the content you are providing. It's okay to let them scroll now. On the home page and secondary pages, make sure that information is as close to the top as you can, but below that, you can feel free to have more information.
- On Web Forms, be logical. It's daunting to fill out a form that makes you scroll down 5 page lengths to fill out. Break up the information into logical chunks. It gives the user the feeling of making progress and allows you to break up the information a little for all sorts of testing purposes.
So there you have it. Relax. Scroll a little. Just not too much.
Greg Kihlstrom is the Creative Director at Carousel30, a Washington DC Web Design and Development firm