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Let's Talk

Sep

04

2014

Slideshow Vs. Scrolling

web design

There once was a time when everyone knew users only paid attention to what was "above the fold" on a website.

There once was a time when users didn't know how to scroll, therefore websites were built to avoid scrolling.

Long ago banner ads never existed. Rotating banners ruled the homepage design world. Flash was the best thing since sliced bread!

Things change. 

Long scrolling pages are IN! Auto-rotating slides are OUT. We hip, sophisticated denizens of the Web are not confused by scrolling. We scroll all day on responsive websites that are perfect for tablets and phones, no problem. Do we want slides on the homepage? Do long scrolling pages work better? Let us discuss.

Slideshows

A rotating banner area at the top of the website has been a staple of web design for a good long while. But is it still a good practice? Usability experts say the answer is NO.

Slides at the top may not necessarily be bad in themselves. What seems to be more the issue is an auto-forwarding movement in the slide carousel. Jakob Nielsen reported in 2013 on a usability study on this issue:

Summary: The user's target was at the top of the page in 98-point font. But she failed to find it because the panel auto-rotated instead of staying still. 

The problem is not a large banner area at the top of the page with a call-to-action or other important piece of content. The problem is an auto-rotating motion that a user immediatley ignores. Why do they ignore it?

Because it smells like an ad. It reads as unimportant. This is simply because people are used to ignoring flashing, moving things at the top of a website because it reminds them of an ad.

The rotating slide is not all to blame. Here's an uncomfortable fact: people don't read. It's one internet rule that has stayed constant. Read more of the details on the study above and you'll find that the copy was what Nielsen calls "content free" and failed to grab the user's attention.

Scrolling

Enter one of the newer design trends over the last couple of years. Long scrolling pages. What are some of the benefits of scrolling?

1. Scrolling back up to find information is much easier than hitting "back" or "next" on a long article, especially for mobile users. Navigation is simple, especially if you have a static or omnipresent nav bar that stays at the top of the page.

2. Technology has made longer scrolling more accessible and natural (touch screens, dynamic loading content)

3. Great for telling a story or presenting a timeline.

4. Scrolling is the new "click." Can you present the content is such an interesting way that the user wants to keep scrolling down the page?

3 Examples - Short, Long, Longest

There are not two choices here: a rotating banner or infinite scrolling. There are plenty of in-betweens.

Currently, Apple has a non-scrolling homepage with everything in one spot. They do use longer scrolling interior pages.

apple

SpinWeb has a little scrolling on the homepage. The first thing you see on our homepage is what we do. You know immediately what we have to offer. 

spinweb-site 

HubSpot has a lot of scrolling. Rather than a slideshow of product information, news, and events, the user is in control of how much they want to scroll down, stop and read, keep browsing down the page. One of our clients, New Edge Law, is another example of a long scrolling homepage.

New_Edge_Law_LLC

A few things to keep in mind

Long scrolling pages aren't for every website. You still have to keep several things in mind when you use this design principal:

  • Content prioritization is key. The largest amount of attention is still primarily "above the fold." Embed key CTA's throughout the page, not just at the end.
  • The page cannot be text-heavy. Users don't read much, so the page must be well designed with clean, action-oriented copy.
  • Ask yourself: Is it necessary? Would a static page work better. Do you have enough compelling content and visual assets to make the user want to keep scrolling?

What do you think? To scroll or not to scroll? Share your thoughts in the comments below.

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