UI Design Myths: Users Don’t Scroll

Many business home pages are designed around the idea that users don’t scroll, and all important content should be above the fold — we bust the myth.

website scrollingOne of the most persistent user interface design canards that designers face is the idea that users don’t scroll, the corollary of which is that anything important has to be placed in the above-the-fold area of a web page — the part that is immediately visible upon page load.

The phrase “above-the-fold” should alert you to the origins of the myth. In print design, specifically newspaper design, “above-the-fold” refers to the area of a broadsheet newspaper on the front page that was literally above the fold: newspapers were folded in half. In these newspapers, the most important content — the content most likely to sell the paper — was placed above the fold because that was the part visible on newsstands.

Users Don’t ScrollThe web design world adopted a form of the above-the-fold principle, except rather than the most important content being placed above the fold, they decided that that all important content should be above the fold because users don’t know how to scroll. Of course, not every important bit of content could be crammed into that area, so workarounds were found, including the carousel or slider. Think about that for a second: users won’t scroll, an action they carry out almost every time they use a device with a screen that isn’t a TV, but they will click through the slides of a slider, an action they perform almost never.

But the myth persists, especially among business owners who employ designers to create their sites.

In fact, sliders are one of the worst possible UI decisions. Almost no-one who visits a site clicks on the slider. Studies have shown that unless the content is displayed on the first slide, no one will interact with it, and conversion rates for any content displayed on subsequent slides approach zero.

Back in the early days of the web, when the UI paradigms were new, it was reasonable to suppose that users were unlikely to scroll down a page. Two decades in, everyone and their grandparents knows to scroll. Designers understand this, which is why one-page scrolling sites have become so popular. Web design clients often aren’t aware, and so insist on solutions like sliders which are actually hostile to the experience of their users.

A recent study from Huge demonstrated this nicely. They tested four different designs both with and without scroll indicators. Everyone scrolled.

scroll indicatorsThere have been many similar tests. Most of which have shown that users know very well that they need to scroll, that they, in fact, do scroll, and that there is no need for workarounds for a problem that doesn’t exist.

The non-scrolling user is a UI design myth that needs to be laid to rest once and for all.


Author Bio:

Matthew Davis works as an inbound marketer and blogger for Future Hosting, a leading provider of VPS hosting. Follow Future Hosting on Twitter at @fhsales, Like them on Facebook and check out their tech/hosting blog, https://www.futurehosting.com/blog/.

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We thanked those amazing people who shared their excellent thoughts with us.

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  • selfpressed

    Great article Matthew. The fold has certainly become a bad word in web design circles, and that seems to revolve almost entirely around the myth that “nobody scrolls.” When my clients ask about the fold, I like to shift the conversation away from pixels and viewports and toward a discussion about ways to motivate the user to stay on the page and keep scrolling. I tell them that a call to action can go anywhere on the site, as long as we motivate them to get there.

    I just published an article on this exact subject, give it a read! I’d love to hear your thoughts: http://www.selfpressed.com/web-design-the-fold