The conventional wisdom in website design used to be that people don’t like to scroll down the page. The mantra was “keep it above the fold” – a term borrowed from the newspaper biz, where editors place the most important stories at the top of the front page.
That’s not the case anymore, at least in web design. And we have mobile devices to thank (or blame, if you prefer) for it. Phones have small screens, and scrolling is part of the deal – plus, it’s just a swipe of a finger on a phone or tablet. This forced web developers to rethink the user experience, and it became vertical.
This shift to vertical ushered in elements like the “sticky nav” (where a minimized version of the top navigation bar stays on screen as you scroll down) and the “hamburger menu” (the stacked horizontal-bar nav icon). These and other elements became part of “responsive design” – where the website interface rearranges and resizes so you can view it in an optimal way on a mobile device.
Search Engine Optimization (SEO) was another factor in this shift to scrolling. Back in the day, it used to be okay to have a way-cool Flash animation as the only feature on your home page. Over the years, Google changed all that – with its bots seeking out relevant, and fresh, content on your home page. So developers sought to place keyword-rich text and properly tagged headings and images.
And larger desktop screens also played a part. There was simply more real estate to fill, presenting options and challenges. Couple that with the need to design so that the large desktop view can elegantly size down to an attractive and usable mobile view. There’s a lot going on!
The net effect is that today’s websites fill the screen and they scroll. Users have come to know and expect that more content lies below. So when thinking about the look and user interface of your next website… don’t fear the scroll!