Most designers and end users know that horizontal scrolling on websites is a huge User Experience mistake.
However, there’s a growing trend towards huge header images, with content ‘below the fold’. This seems to fly in the face of 2,000 years of common sense.
‘Below the fold’ means the part of the web page that you have to vertically scroll to in order to view it. Scroll wheels on mice and touch screen tablets mean you no longer need to grab the scrollbar. However, taken to it’s extreme, there are single page websites, which require constant scrolling.
Why Books Made Scrolls Obsolete
Nicholas Carr’s book, ‘The Shallows’ analyses how various communication tools have affected the way we read. In it he covers historic evolution, including why newfangled books superseded ‘scrolls’.
Other than the cost savings of books (you can print on both sides of the page) he highlights the User Experience benefits,
“Books were easy to navigate too. Finding a particular passage, an awkward task with a long roll of text, became a simple matter of flipping back and forth to the next page.” The Shallows by Nicholas Carr, p60.
The Hyperlink: A Real Page Turner
Fast forward to 1990, hyperlinking allows the peripheral information to remain static, whilst you focus on what’s changed. This means you always have your navigation(or index) on display. So you never get lost and can always click the ‘back’ button.
Throwing down an anchor
Long or single page websites returns to the idea of putting multiple sections of content on one page. However, there is a solution. You can set up ‘anchor points’.
Anchor points have been around since the 1990s. They allow you to hyperlink to a specific word or character within the page. So when you click the link, the page moves to that point in the text.
It’s quite disorientating. Similar to watching those weather reports with dynamic maps throwing you around the British Isles: try this.
I am all in favour of challenging convention. However, great design isn’t just about any ideas. It has to improve the user experience.
The role of navigation, is to sign post content.
Above all else, it has to pass the Steve Krug’s usability principle on web design: ‘Don’t Make Me Think’.
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