October 13, 2014
Have you considered your website’s scrolling functionality lately? If not, never fear; you’re not alone. For years, businesses have designed websites with the same top-to-bottom scrolling techniques, and given little thought to how other methods might enhance user experience.
The rise of mobile technology has presented exciting new options that companies should consider, however.
When designing an eCommerce website, businesses want to make it as easy as possible for visitors to obtain the information they need, quickly and conveniently. Sometimes that means sticking to conventional scrolling methods; but increasingly, consumers are looking for different ways to experience Web content.
Among the many developments in Web design to keep pace with mobile traffic are new (and sometimes improved) scrolling techniques.
Why Effective Scrolling Matters in Web Design
Although designers once tried to keep all important information “above the fold,” studies indicate modern Web users are more apt to scroll, particularly on mobile devices. Not only is scrolling easier on a touch-screen device, it has also become more accepted by users, given the small size of tablet and Smartphone screens.
Regardless of the device, scrolling offers a way for users to interact with Web content instead of staring at static screens. The dynamic visual provided by a scrolling screen stands in contrast to one in which all the content is available on one page. This helps enhance the story that brands wish to convey to current and potential customers.
The Whys and Hows of Major Scrolling Design Trends
Scrolling has come a long way since its straight-up-and-down and (occasionally) side-to-side orientation. With innovative new scrolling methods, companies can give their websites a whole new look and functionality and stay stylistically ahead of their competitors.
Scrolling trends you should watch for and consider include:
- Horizontal scrolling. A somewhat unconventional option, horizontal scrolling represents a departure from the widely accepted vertical scrolling format that websites have used since the birth of the Internet. Thanks to the advent of mobile devices and responsive design, scrolling has taken new directions.
Consider how most mobile users position their phones or tablets when they access the Web. Many individuals turn their devices sideways to view websites in their traditional “landscape” mode. Design and other creative professionals can benefit from the intuitive nature of this technique, but any company with a significant mobile presence may want to consider trying it.
- Parallax scrolling. Although designers have been using parallax techniques since its introduction to animation in the 1940s and video games in the 1980s, it represents a relatively new technique in the world of Web design. By changing the perspective of the display based on the position of the viewer, parallax design offers high interactivity with an image.
- Column-based scrolling. Websites that wish to allow users to scroll through one column – while leaving the other intact – may incorporate column-based scrolling. This can work well on news sites, blogs, and other pages where visitors might wish to view multiple stories or posts without clicking back to the previous page.
- Infinite scrolling. Many websites are now incorporating infinite scrolling, a “bottomless” experience that continues to present new content as users work their way down the page. Rather than waiting for new pages to load, more site visitors appreciate a steady stream of information, images, or products for their perusal.
This technique makes sense for websites that carry large amounts of user-generated content, such as blogs, social media, and video-sharing sites. A high-profile example is Twitter, which continually adds to the stream of updates users receive in their “feed.”
Infinite scrolling may not be the best choice for all websites, though. Analytics have suggested users are often satisfied with receiving limited results on Web searches, and feel that too many options can be overwhelming. Arriving at an “end point” also imbues users with a sense of control over the browsing experience, and pagination allows sites to categorize and index information better for customer use.
Which Scrolling Technique is Right for Your Company?
When building or redesigning a website, business owners may wonder which design features will generate the greatest positive impact on customers. Scrolling, although a seemingly small detail, may be an aspect that will make or break your site.
According to DigiTech Web Design, companies working with a Web design firm should keep the following questions in mind when incorporating one or more scrolling techniques, including:
- Who is my audience? Consider the age, occupation and lifestyle of your typical customer. Is he or she likely to appreciate a feature – such as infinite scrolling – that will supply hours of information or products? Or does your average user need short, easy-to-navigate pages on which he or she can quickly locate what’s needed?
- What devices will viewers be using? Mobile users represent a growing number of Internet consumers, and that makes new scrolling methods a more attractive option. However, if you anticipate large numbers of customers will view your site on desktop computers, choose your scrolling method accordingly.
- Does my content fit the method? Depending on your product lines or site content, techniques such as infinite scrolling may not offer the compatibility you need.
Incorporating innovative new scrolling methods into Web design is becoming increasingly common for eCommerce businesses, but jumping on the bandwagon isn’t always the answer for everyone.
By carefully measuring your company’s goals, products, and customers, you may determine whether your website’s scrolling style fills the bill or needs an overhaul.
What scrolling methods would you try to boost your website’s functional and aesthetic value?
I am a professional blogger, writer, researcher and successful investor who contributes to a number of reputable online media outlets and news sources. A graduate of Iowa State University, I’m now a full-time freelance writer, business consultant and independent real estate investor. Currently, I write for Inc.com, Entrepreneur.com, TheNextWeb.com and BiggerPockets.com. I have previously contributed to the HuffingtonPost.com, and Business.com, among others. In addition to journalism, technical writing and in-depth research, I’m also active in real estate investing and spend weekends volunteering with a local non-profit literacy organization. When I’m not saving the world with my keyboard, I can be found rock climbing.