Nowadays scrolling is a common and widely used behavior to view digital content. Still, the myth that people don’t scroll persists for nearly 20 years.

In the early 20th century, scrolling was a relative uncommon interaction. Indeed, recommended to avoid scrolling; they cautioned that it could lead to usability issues. Computer users were used to seeing all the relevant information they needed on one screen. This changed rapidly as more and more content was created and published on the internet.

The page fold

The design concept of the digital page fold was born. The page fold basically describes the area with all the information you can see when you open a web page, so from the top of the browser window to the bottom. Everything you cannot see directly is below the fold. Users are required to scroll to view this information.

This design concept originally came from newspapers. Even today newspapers place the most important stories (often with a feature image) above the fold. The intention here is pretty clear: interested in our amazing story? Buy the newspaper!

In the early days of the digital fold, the message was similar: want to attract the users’ attention? Position the most relevant content above the fold!

Responsive Design

This concept was put to the test with the introduction of responsive design. When each web page adapts to the screen size of the device, how do you design for the so-called “fold” then? Is there even a fold anymore? Well, you shouldn’t design for the fold these days. Focus on the user’s expectations and design for value and purpose. People scroll when they feel it’s worth it to dive deeper into the site’s content. Web designs can encourage scrolling by having visual signifiers showing there’s more than what you see right now. A visual signifier is in most cases a web design element which is not shown completely, for example a partial view of a tile.  

Additionally, having some key web design tips in mind is beneficial:   

  • Focus on your users’ needs
    User research reveals users’ needs, expectations and goals. If your users don’t have the feeling they are finding what they need on your site, they will go somewhere else and are less likely to return. Ensure you know your users like you know your best friends.
  • Exploration holds users’ attention
    Stop seeing your website as a platform to sell information, products or services, and start seeing it as a space that people can explore. Exploration should be fun and keep people’s attention. Don’t forget to provide users with guidance through your space.
  • Tell a meaningful story
    Everyone has a story to tell! A good story always provides value and purpose. What’s your story or that of your product?

In summary, scrolling is one of the most used interactions in our daily digital lives. It’s imperative, however, that the page supports scrolling by using visual signifiers and following key web design basics.

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