Monday, July 21, 2014

How much scrolling is too much scrolling

This article explores the idea of scrolling and how we should consider it when building out a screen.

Many of you have worked on those crazy projects where you are teamed up with the guy who only sees things in black and white. Buttons are buttons, links are links, and questions cannot be answered with anything that isn't explicitly the exact right answer. In fact, I can hear his voice now...

"Don't go below the fold!!!"

Thanks buddy, but there's more to it then that. Many UX practitioners have adopted the stance of seeing in shades of grey, shade of priority, or if you're like me, shades of plaid. Let's just put it this way, there are not always hard-fast answers to all our UX questions.

Enough liberal lip-flapping; let's get to the point e.

In this day in age, it seems that our users are accustomed to scrolling. Sure, it's good to have your main points "Above the fold", or in other words, above the point in the browser window that the users can immediately see without having to use the scroll bar to access content that appears lower on the screen.

I've seen some crazy stuff, but one particular example completely reminds me of the guy mentioned above. Take a look at this screenshot...

Now, as you can see, the navigation section at the top takes up so little room that there is ample room to fit one or two examples below and still probably still be above the fold. But, that guy mentioned above just had to put the "back to top" link on each one to stay consistent.

In evaluating the above example, the only word that comes to my mind is "Silly". In this design, it would have made more sense to simply leave off the navigation tiles at the top, and all the "Back to top" links as well.

Is there research that has given clue to an acceptable range at which a scroll is totally viable? I could understand if the RV descriptions were larger, than maybe it would warrant a top side navigation such as this, but how much larger?

One solution might be to make use of jQuery to have the "Back to Top" link stay on screen the moment the person begins to scroll. As the person scrolls down, the link stays in a relative place to the window size. Then, if you are hundreds of lines down and click the button, the jQuery script causes the screen to slowly and smoothly go back to the top.

But still, is this even necessary? Let's look at some hard facts...

Fact 1: looked at 25 million user sessions across a wide variety of sites and content types to see where users were spending there time...

Fact 2:
In 2010, Jakob Nielsen wrote an article highlighting that their eye tracking research concluded that web surfers spend about 20% of their time below the fold. Here's an image that explains his findings a little bit better...

The evidence that we can see is that people DO go below the fold. Why? Is it a habit? Is it an instinct? Not sure about either of those things. I believe that is has to do more with a web pages affordance for scrolling. If your site has a layout that makes it seem as though there isn't anything below the fold, then users are likely to miss info that is below, but if you design your screen to communicate to the user that there is further information, then you have effectively created affordance for scrolling. 

Maybe this is the case for Parallax Scrolling!


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