Website Writing Guide
Web writing and presentation style
Scrolling and page length
Scrolling down a page of content is a very common activity for users of the Web. However, there are pitfalls in assuming users are happy to scroll down any page of content.
On this page:
When deciding how much content to put on a Web page, consider these potential pitfalls in making users scroll down:
- users will not scroll down if the content they can see is not relevant to them
- the level of tolerance for scrolling depends on the nature of the content – eg they will scroll more readily on a newspaper Web page looking for sporting news than a government Web page looking for an annual report
- no one will scroll down if it's not apparent that there is content below
- those using hand-held devices to access the Web page will find a long scrolling page difficult to manage
- users are less likely to scroll down a page if there is no compelling reason to do so, if they are in a rush, are impatient by nature or have done a search and have other websites queued up to explore
- users can lose their way when scrolling down long pages and forget the out-of-sight headings which can make imparting the content less effective
- a sobering statistic for website writers: Google reports that about 47% of users do not scroll down the first results page to reveal all top ten results
- some users don’t scroll as matter of principle, unless they absolutely have to
- those using the Web for the first time may not know about scrolling.
Here are some tips on mitigating the pitfalls above. You may need to employ some or all of these methods.
- Be ruthless with cutting unnecessary content so the need to scroll is minimised.
- Make sure the contents of the whole page are stated succinctly and in an engaging way at the very top of the page. This helps users to determine its relevance quickly and encourages them to scroll down.
- Make it clear that there is more text out of sight below the first screen.
- Avoid creating a large gap in the content just where the bottom of the page is likely to be for many users. The gap may lead them to think that there is no more content on the page.
- Provide navigation tools and instructions for users such as:
- group the content under headings
- provide a hyplerlinked list of all the page headings at the top of the page as this page does
- provide a ‘return to top’ hyperlink at regular intervals down the page and at the very bottom of the page such as that used on this Web page.
- Divide the content across a number of pages - see Organising the content