Does Scrolling really harm your website?

(Example: 800×600) smallest

(Example: 1280×1024) High Resolution
OK, so you have a great site, have lots to say, are an expert in your field and your site also looks great in 1280×1024. But, you have just found out that people are still using 800×600 and these people can only view 419px area above scroll, so are seeing barely half of your fantastic new site. What do you do?………..

Well Jakob Nielson has been debating this very issue since 1994 and in Neilsons words “most findings about Web usability are the same now as they were in 1994.This may be surprising, but usability is about basic human capabilities and users’ needs which do not change nearly as rapidly as technology.”

Scrolling: it seems everyone has an opinion on it:

“Re-design for 800×600, you’ll regret it if you don’t!”

“Don’t worry about it; most people are on 1280×1024”

“Make sure that your calls to action are above the fold”

“What’s the fold?”

In my opinion, designing for 800×600 would not be designing for the majority of users. I don’t for one minute consider that those using 800×600 are inconsequential, I just believe that a compromise is probably better in this case. The percentages of those on high and low resolution is still in some contest, some will argue that its 7% on 800×600 others 14% leaving the majority with a fairly significant share, but it is something that should be factored in when considering copy placement and positioning of a companies USP at the very least.

According to the research by Click Tale total page length is not a strong factor in terms of how many people will scroll below the fold or reach the bottom of page. Their analysis has shown that:

* The average location for the fold is between 430 and 860 pixels down on the page.
* 76% of people will scroll below the fold.
* 91% of pages are long enough to require scrolling.

You have to keep in mind that behind these percentages lie actual individuals, and user behavior is split between certain groups of individuals that make up the Web Population i.e.: Methodicals and Humanistics these are users driven by information gathering and will most likely scroll in order to find what they need, their opposites are the Spontaneous and Competitive types who make up, probably the majority of site bounce ratios, these users are far more fickle and indecisive, and therefore need to access information easily and quickly. Considering the brain can absorb thousands upon thousands bits of information per second…10 seconds is long enough to get your message across.

So basically to round up, here’s a short checklist of things that might help to avoid bounce rates due to scrolling:

1. Communicate your USP, biggest benefits in headlines and calls to action above the fold (Users often decide whether to stay or leave based on what they can see without scrolling)
2. Include well-formatted web copy to aid scrolling
3. Don’t sacrifice clear page design to shave a few pixels off the page length
4. Don’t even consider horizontal scrolling
5. Remember the 10 second rule
6. Add a bookmark button at the top of the page (to encourage them to return)

Of course for more information on usability visit the Jakob Nielson site.

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