The days of “above the fold” are over. Long scrolling and infinite scrolling sites are becoming more and more popular lately, and it’s no coincidence that this technique translates well to mobile devices. The increased use of mobile screens has definitely played a key role in the widespread acceptance of long scroll technique: The smaller the screen, the longer the scroll.
Long scrolling opens a lot of new doors to designers. However, this pattern has its own drawbacks. It requires designers to pay strong attention to content, navigation, and animation.
Here are 5 tips to follow to make sure that your long scrolling meets user expectations.
Despite the fact that people usually start scrolling as soon as their page loads, content at the top, visible part of the screen is very important. What appears at the top of the page creates an initial impression and sets a quality expectation for your users. Users do scroll, but only if what they see when they enter the page is promising enough.
To make sure that people will scroll, you need to provide content that keeps your visitors interested. Thus, put your most compelling content at the top area of the page:
Sometimes the best way to make users scroll is to directly ask them to do it. Simply inform users that most of the content is available below the fold. A subtle visual cue, such as an arrow pointing off-screen or a text “scroll down”, can inform users that most of the content is available below.
Arrow pointing off-screen informs users that most of the content will be laid out below.
Navigation is a make or breaks aspect of the user experience of a site. One of the biggest risks of using long scrolling in your design is the possibility of user disorientation. If the navigation bar loses its visibility when users scroll down, they will have to scroll all the way back up when they’re deep within the page . Usually, this behavior confuses and frustrates users.
The obvious solution for this problem is to use a sticky navigation menu which shows the current location and remains on the screen in the same position at all times.
An example of persistently visible sticky navigation.
Mobile devices only: Since the mobile screen is much smaller than the desktop screen, a visible navigation bar can take up a relatively significant part of the screen. One way to solve the problem of a small screen estate is to hide a navigation bar when users are scrolling for new content and make it visible when users pull down in order to get back to the top.
Creative effects like parallax scrolling and scroll-activated animations can engage users to scroll more. They turn scrolling into something more fun and make the user wonder “what will happen next?”
Consider breaking up your page into scrollable “chunks.” Within each chunk, you can introduce the content through creative animations. As users scroll, animations transition them to the next screen while creating a path of content to follow.
Parallax is another popular animated effect that can improve scrolling experience. The parallax effect creates an illusion of depth and immersion by making the background image move slower than the content in the foreground. When your site wants to tell a story in a smooth, linear fashion, long scrolling paired with parallax effect is able to create a completely immersive browsing experience.
Websites that implement scroll hijacking take control of the scroll and override a basic function of the web browser. Scroll hijacking is bad because the user no longer has full control of the page scroll and unable to predict its behavior. Users’ expectations of a website’s scrolling interaction shouldn’t be destroyed for the sake of narrative experience.
Long scrolling is able to create a completely immersive browsing experience. It’s completely possible to make a journey as enjoyable as the destination. When users like the content on your site and find UI intuitive, then they won’t really mind the length of the scroll.