Technology

Don't Fear the Scrollbar

Author
Joel Burslem
No.
475
Date
04/29/10

We’re working on some very exciting projects at 1000watt right now. The emergence of a new generation of programming languages, coupled with radical new ways to interface with the web, has meant we can really begin to push the boundaries of visual and interaction design.

Websites as we know them are changing. They can now be shaped and molded into truly unique and playful experiences. Imagination is the only thing holding us back.

This fundamental change to the Web has forced us to think deeply about the way we architect the interaction visitors have when they arrive at one of our sites.

Above the fold

It’s a term we hear a lot. “Above the fold” is a well-worn design hangover from the print era. Originally it referred to the placement of an important story or striking photograph on the upper half of the front page of a newspaper. You put your best content “above the fold” to entice people to buy your paper.

On the web, the term quickly came to refer to the placement of content that was visible without scrolling.

The thing is, on a browser, there is no page fold.

Keep on scrolling

There’s increasing evidence that putting less content above the fold actually encourages greater exploration of your site.

Take a site like crushlovely.com – a great example of how you can take the familiar horizontal design of a website and flip it on its head. Better yet, view it on an iPad or smartphone and really see what I’m talking about.

This change has even caused well-known usabilty expert Jakob Nielsen to revisit his thinking on the subject.

The fold still matters, to be sure, but increasingly less so.

One great tip from Nielsen’s piece: “don’t forget to put a nice morsel at the very bottom.” The footer is an oft-forgotten piece of real estate on a website. Pause for a moment and think about what people will find at the bottom of your pages right now.

So whether its a spin of the wheel of a mouse, or a flick of your finger, don’t fear the scrollbar. Relax a little about the fold and let your imagination run wild.