For many of us coming from the above the fold culture, a long scroll site might come as an aberration. Yet we’ve come to see more and more sites using this navigation style to the point that it has long stopped being a trend to start becoming a default. But, should it? Living in an increasingly mobile scenario, the simple and concise answer seems to be ‘hell, yeah!’. Things, of course, tend to be more complex than this.
Being from the above the fold culture myself, I found that I don’t mind scrolling endlessly in certain occasions and definitely annoying on others. A totally unscientific research I just did shows that I’m not alone – people do care about the context to pick one over the other. So, though many people believe that we should start retiring clicks from our lives entirely, there’s still plenty of room for it on the Web.
And that’s when things get tricky for web designers. When to use one and when to pick the other? It’s a matter of taste or there are some hidden pointers to unveil that define whether use one or the other? There are more questions about this, I’m sure, but I’ll try to narrow down some of the things that will help you decide.
So, click or not?
There are 4 key things that will define whether you use a click-centric approach or a long-scrolling one. These are:
- Your audience – All the things you do and upload on your site should have your target audience on mind. After all, you’re trying to deliver a message to it and it will only reach its destination if you do things right. It’s no different here. An audience that arrives to your site looking for something specific will certainly appreciate a more fixed design and navigation route, something that only a click-focused structure can provide. This works for companies offering products, since they can use the first page to introduce the audience to their products and then propose a path to keep discovering it, appealing to a clicking commitment.A long scrolling site, on the other hand, is perfect for audiences that aren’t exactly sure about what they are looking for – they are hoping to make a discovery. That’s why those kind of structures work great for sites like Buzzfeed, where there are tons of different contents fighting for attention but also covering very diverse needs. In this scenario, scrolling is a smoother experience than clicking, since clicking to discover something grows tiresome pretty quickly (don’t believe me? Think of massive photo galleries where you have to click over and over and you’ll understand).
- Your content – It’s impossible to understand your audience without thinking about your content. In fact, your content defines your audience, so having it in mind when making this decision is practically a no brainer. If you are more focused on different kinds of contents that are screaming to be discovered, scroll you must. But if you offer different types of contents that belong to very specific categories, a more organized, paginated and clickety approach is where you should aim.
- Your brand – We are living in the brand story era, where companies use their websites to tell stories where their products and services are the main protagonists. That’s probably the main reason why so many sites out there are going the scroll-centric path – because that structure is far more natural to tell a story. There’s a fixed route there, where all the ‘chapters’ are arranged one after the other to complete a narrative. That allows people to discover you, your brand and what you’re all about.As fantastic as that may be, perhaps you don’t want to tell a story. Maybe your clients know you too well and you don’t need to introduce yourself or perhaps a story doesn’t fit in your overall strategy. That’s fine. You can always go the click-focused way, where each of the elements that make up your brand has its space and where your audience can access directly to the things they are interested in instead of navigating through a story they might know oh-so well.
- Your possibilities – Though we all want to have the best site out there, there are some constraints and limitations that prevent us from having it. If you need a versatile site, the complexities of a long-scroll site perhaps aren’t for you. Adding new contents or re-arranging components often can be very hard when working with that structure, because there’s a lot going on in the background that keep such sites running smoothly. Budget is also a concern. Long-scrolling sites are beautiful but are often more expensive, since they need more work to look that beautiful and work that swiftly.
So, keep those things in mind next time you’re redesigning your site. This is no minor decision and you should take it seriously. In an increasingly competing web, making the wrong choice can cost you dearly, so try to understand the overall picture before getting your hands on the drawing board.