All our recent sites have been responsive-friendly and more of our clients now expect this from any potential developers. ‘Responsive’ has now found its way onto clients’ requirements lists and risen above ‘mobile-friendly’ in the league table.
Also on that list we often see the concept of ‘above the fold’. It’s right that the key information on any website should be towards the top of the screen. That’s plain to everyone and the point doesn’t need labouring. But alongside this demand is the unease some clients feel that ‘below the fold’ – the stuff that doesn’t appear on first viewing the site – is a kind of content wasteland. They worry that if you can’t squeeze something onto the top of the screen it’s a digital hinterland, quickly abandoned by visitors – the only thing missing from the image being tumbleweed and a light coating of dust.
We’re here to tell you to stop worrying about that. It was accepted wisdom a few years ago that USERS DON’T LIKE SCROLLING. But if that was true in 1999 (at least a couple of generations ago in website terms) it most certainly isn’t in 2015.
Think for a moment about how you view a site on a mobile or iPad. Swipe, swipe, swipe. People are doing the same thing on a desktop with their mouse-wheel or on a laptop trackpad. Usability studies show visitors linger for a short while on the top of the home page (forming a first impression in less than 1/10 of a second).
They quickly go on to hunt down the screen for something interesting to land on.
You’re in good company
Let’s look at two examples from big name organisations that spend millions on their digital content and whose designs are carefully backed by research and prototyping:
theguardian.com – The Guardian launched a new site in January 2015, making heavy use of vertical scrolling, even on a big screen.
The key navigation is of course at the top of the screen, but users are so accustomed to vertical scrolling, it simply isn’t a design constraint any more. The websites for the Times, Telegraph and Independent are all exactly the same.
bbc.co.uk – the Beeb is in the process of shifting away from a ‘tablet-centric’ homepage (headline stories at the top of the screen, horizontal scrolling to move between sections).
The BBC is going back to a more tiled look with oodles of vertical scrolling. Tested and prototyped, bringing the UX into line for mobile and desktop viewing.
As an aside, some sites are even starting to adopt the concept of ‘infinite scrolling’ used by the likes of tumblr. Look at the following link, not for the story itself, but for the way new ‘latest news’ keeps being added to the bottom the longer you scroll.
Plan for a responsive website. Put the important stuff at the top. Stop worrying about forcing your users to scroll down too far. It simply isn’t an issue.