The design world is beginning to shift toward more vertically-oriented “scrolling” websites that require fewer click-throughs and instead use scrolling as the primary means to navigate through content. However, these sites can raise eyebrows among designers who were taught the long-held philosophy that important content must always be presented “above the fold” (or “above the scroll”) of the screen.
“Above the fold” is behind the times
As it turns out, “above the fold” is more of an urban legend, one that is long outdated. The myth that users don’t like scrolling originates from the newspaper industry’s “above the fold” practice of placing important stories on the upper half of the front page where they can be visible while on display. When computer hardware and websites were in their infancy, accessing content below the “fold” of the screen simply took more effort than people were willing to expend. However, the invention of the scrolling mouse, along with trackpads and touchscreens, has now made it effortless to scroll through a website. Today, people are simply used to it.
Keep your site user-friendly
No matter what website design you use, dense content without visual breaks will send your visitors fleeing. Like print, websites with long sections of text are the hardest type of content to keep interesting with long scrolling. To keep scrolling websites user-friendly, keep your content short and concise. Create section breaks to make sure that users know when they’re going from one topic to another. This can be achieved with differently sized labels and headings, or by giving new sections a different background color, creating a clear visual break in the content.
Be mindful of information hierarchy
While the trend toward scrolling as the primary means to navigate through website content has given website designers the freedom to include more content on their websites’ home pages, it has also made content organization more important. In scrolling and conventional website alike, content organization implies content hierarchy. Even though “above the fold” is no longer the dominant design philosophy, users still assume that your most important information is at the top of your site. To combat this assumption and keep your audience’s attention while “below the fold”, make the content further down the page more vibrant and visually dramatic. This will keep users from dismissing it as secondary or tertiary content and possibly missing important information.
Remember mobile users
The majority of internet searches are done on mobile devices, so it’s important to factor mobile-friendliness into your scrolling site design. You can use every pixel of your site and have it look great on a desktop or laptop, but before you launch your site you need to think of how it will look to your mobile users. The smaller the screen, the longer the scroll: content that looks just right on a big screen can seem endless on a small one. Keeping your content concise and mobile-friendly will help to keep your website fresh, attractive, and an asset to your business.
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