The Myth About Scrolling in Local Government Website Design

Written by Collin Williamson

Research shows that users no longer avoid scrolling on webpages.

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The Myth:

Users don’t want to scroll on websites. If the content is hidden beneath the fold, my visitors won't find it.

The Truth:

The term above the fold is a term that originally related to newspapers and tabloids. Editors would place the most important front page stories above the physical fold of a newspaper. Today, the term is used when describing the visible content that appears when a webpage loads—content that can be seen without scrolling down. Although this is still a valuable practice in the digital era, content managers don't need to have everything visible above the fold on a website. The truth is that users have adopted scrolling as a more natural interaction than it ever has been with the adoption of smartphones and websites responding to a mobile-focused experience.

The Benefits of Scrolling

With a strategic and scroll-centric design on your website, you are in a better position to be able to present content to your users or citizens in a variety of ways. Some of those benefits are included here:

  • Scrolling Is Faster than Clicking. It’s fast and easy to scroll through a website built with scrolling in mind. Scrolling is faster than clicking and helps the user to quickly scan through the information they are looking for. By making sure your website loads smoothly and in seconds, your user will feel empowered to quickly scroll  to find information faster than clicking through columns of links or images.
  • Scrolling Requires No Commitments. Scrolling is a very non-committal action, meaning that the user can freely scroll through your website without having to make an action that might take him or her away from your homepage.
  • Scrolling Allows You to Tell Your Story. With a scroll-centered design, you are able to layout information that reveals as the user scrolls down your page, which is a powerful narrative tool that can help tell the user the story you want told through your website.
  • Scrolling Is Natural for Mobile Devices. With the increase of visits to websites using a smartphone or tablet, it’s easy to see why a website that utilizes scrolling as part of its design would be a warm welcome to mobile users. Scrolling is natural for smaller screens and devices.
  • Scrolling is Here to Stay. Scrolling is becoming a permanent interaction for all websites. The most popular social media websites and apps have adopted scrolling as their most permanent feature, such as Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. Websites that are viewed on desktops are quickly starting to adapt features found on mobile optimized websites with websites seeing more mobile users instead of desktop users.

Did You Know?

  • According to data analyst firm, Chartbeat, 66% of attention on a normal page is spent below the fold. (Source- Time)
  • ClickTale, a heatmapping service, found that 76% of users scrolled on a page, with 22% scrolling to the bottom of the page. (Source- Clicktale)
  • According to a study conducted by the Neilsen Norman Group, when user attention is focused above the fold, people do scroll down when the page is designed to promote the interaction. (Source- Neilsen Norman Group)

Tips to Consider With A Scrolling Website Design

  • Don’t Make Your Website Never-Ending. If the page is too long, it is likely that some users won’t make it to the bottom of the page. Although users are used to scrolling more than they have before, they will quickly abandon your website if there doesn’t seem to be any end of the website’s homepage.
  • Keep Performance in Mind. With a scroll-centered design, you are able to fit more information on the length of each page, such as images, video embeds, or even additional text blocks. With all these additional images and functions, you may be making your pages too heavy with content and could cause your website to experience slower loading times.
  • Longer Homepages Aren’t Search Friendly. By keeping all your information on the homepage, you may be hindering your user from being able to find relevant search results if that information is only on your homepage. It’s best to have important information created as a page within your site map.
  •  Consider Sticky or Fixed Navigation. If you have concerns regarding the top most portion of your web site, consider developing fixed or “sticky” navigation on your website. Fixed navigation pins your global navigation items to the top of the page, regardless of how far down the page a user scrolls. This fixed navigation can help your user get back to the top of the page or access additional pages without the need to scroll back to the top of your homepage.

If your local government website is in need of a redesign that leverages these and other modern best practices, click below to download our free local government website redesign toolkit.

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