How Far Do Users Scroll - Scroll vs. Click

Unlike printed content, content on the internet can be endless. You can write reams upon reams of content to your hearts content, safe in the knowledge that there is no ‘bottom’ of the page. You do not have to fit your work into tight word constraints so it can be published in a magazine or newspaper. No, websites have released our shackles and given us the freedom to babble on to our hearts content.

Except in actual fact they haven’t. The opposite is true really. Online users have an even smaller attention span than those flicking through a magazine. So, if you listen to the general online consensus, your content should reflect that; considering many variables regarding scrolling and content structure… or should you?

The Fold Line

This phrase was coined in the time when newspapers existed, remember that? Newspapers are displayed to customers folded, meaning only the top half of the front page is visible, this was defined as the fold line. The line that determines the structure of the content, with the most important content positioned above the fold line, enticing the reader to pick up the paper and unfold it.

As websites gained prominence, the fold line was adapted for web. Now the phrase ‘above the fold line’ when used about a website is everything a user can see before they scroll.

Now, you would be forgiven for assuming that scrolling is therefore the equivalent of turning the page of a newspaper, and so should be avoided, opting instead to condense everything into as little space as possible. The statistics, however, prove otherwise.

Data analytics provider, Chartbeat, analysed data from 2 billion website visits and found that content at the top of the page is in view for the shortest amount of time, an average of just four seconds, and the amount of time in view steadily rises the further down the page. In fact, they found that 66% of attention on a normal media page is spent below the fold.

This is due to the actual positioning of the fold line – or lack thereof. Fold line corresponds to screen resolution. The vast variation in screen sizes being used by users means that the fold line also has vast variations. Identifying a definitive fold line, which you structure your content around, is simply not possible. This reinforces the importance of having a responsive website, so you can control the structure of your website and then try to convince your users to scroll. Give them a reason to scroll and they won’t think twice about it.

Fold line is important of course, you should always have your key content at the top of your page as a simple design principle. Beyond that, users will scroll if they enjoy your content

scroll heatmap

 

Scrolling vs. Clicking

When the internet and computers were the new kids, being sneered at by their print peers, scrolling was a chore. Clicking and dragging the scroll bar on the right, or repeatedly hitting the arrows to get down the page. Having a lengthy website back then was bad user-experience practise. Now though, users are more comfortable with scrolling, it’s now second nature.

The scrolling vs. clicking debate has a clear winner – scrolling. ClickTale, a heatmap service provider, analysed almost 100,000 pageviews, discovering that people used the scrollbar on 76% of the pages, with 22% of those being scrolled all the way to the bottom.

Scrolling is quicker than clicking, especially for those on a mobile device. Social media took this concept and ran with it. The basic layout of just about every social media platform is based on the principle of endless scrolling through user generated content. The traffic and influence these channels receive is evidence of the popularity of this layout.

Scrolling is not decision based. Users simply scroll without thinking about it. Clicking on the other hand, is decision based. Clicking requires an audience to know that what they want is on that page, and to be motivated to get there.

Now, clicking is not dead. There will always be a place for internal link clicks on a website. However, page 2, 3, 4 etc. could be seeing its end, with many websites converting to the endless scroll alternative.

scroll down

Encourage Scrolling?

Scrolling is natural today. It provides better user experience on lengthy articles than carving up the text into several pages. Scrolling is that entrenched in our online thought process that in 2011, Apple removed the scroll bar by default from their Mac OS X. Now, users don’t even need a visual aid to entice scrolling. So, you do not have to squeeze your content into the top of your homepage.

Keep in mind that the content above the fold does still get the most attention, so it is crucial in determining whether a user will decide to scroll and read on.

The mistake some users will make is thinking they have seen everything on a page, not noticing that they need to scroll to see more. To avoid this, here are some tips;

  • Avoid horizontal white spaces by either removing the white space all together, or have columned content that end at different heights. Horizontal white spaces create the illusion of the bottom of the page.
  • Be clear, add a please-scroll graphic to make it clear to your users there’s more down the page.
  • Give users a reason to scroll. “Scroll down for a £10 coupon” “Scroll down to learn more about (valuable information).”
  • Include links to target locations on the same page. By clicking on these links users are automatically jumped down to that section.

The top of your page is still, undoubtedly, the most important part of your web page. 55% of users spend fewer than 15 seconds on a webpage so grabbing and holding their attention is vital. Once a user is hooked, do not be afraid of scrolling, it is natural to a user.

 

Holding a user’s attention for just three minutes makes them twice as likely to return than if you only hold them for one minute (Chartbeat). So, the top of your web page should be the place where a user immediately finds that your website is useful, interesting, or entertaining. Then they will scroll and discover more, they will also discover more of your calls to action, and generally they will have a much better experience of your website.

You must accept that you don’t need all your content above the fold line, and more to the point it is impossible to accurately control where the fold line is, so you can never know how much of your content is seen immediately after it has loaded. Follow basic content structure principles, and don’t become obsessed with fold lines.

If you’d like to chat about making your website as user-friendly as possible, get in touch with our web team today on 0114 266 900 or email us at info@dscreative.co.uk 

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chris

Created by, Chris 

 

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