One of our guiding design principles at Cross & Crown is a phrase coined by our Creative Director, Joel Davis. He says,
“Scrolling is natural, but clicking is a commitment”
We have trained website users for decades to scroll to find the information they need. 60% of internet traffic occurs on phones which adds to the expected user behavior of scrolling vs. clicking. Whether a user is scrolling to read an email, a webpage, a search engine results page, or an online catalog, users understand that they will not see all of the data they need in one screen, so they take the action of scrolling. When they scroll to a new area of the screen, they are—in effect—rewarded by being served up a new slice of data points. John Herman states:
“If there’s one lesson to take from every major change in how people browse the internet over the last five years…it’s that users hate to click and don’t mind scrolling…Clicking is a choice, like jumping; scrolling is inevitable, like falling.”
We have trained users to scroll to get information
This practice really exploded in 2014 when full-width, responsive web-pages, designed in panels became a “thing.” Instead of top-navigation-heavy websites requiring a user to click on menu items and be transported to a different page, the one-page, scroll-down website trend enables users to be guided through a specific order of messaging, imagery, and form presentations.
Marketers loved the one-page, scrolling approach because it gave them more control over their messaging strategy. They could define what a user saw first, second, and third. Though a top-level click-navigation-based website can still guide your users, you simply cannot control what a user clicks on first, second, or third (though many marketing teams will try and convince you differently). With a single-page, panel-based website, you have more control over your messaging architecture and you can lead your visitor through an intentionally designed brand story.
In general, a user will most often scroll before they click because it is a natural habit. Scrolling doesn’t require a commitment or decision, a user simply scrolls until they find the information they need.
Clicking requires a commitment
In the most simple sense, clicking is a different physiological mechanism. This means, you have to exert more physical force, and more directed and precise physical energy to click. Think about when you arrive at a menu of choices. You first need to notice the menu, read the choices, make a decision on the menu choice you want to make, move your finger or mouse to that choice, and then depress the screen or mouse to “click.”
I’m exhausted just thinking about it. Even if you serve me an icon that is clickable, I still have to make the decision to depress my finger or mouse. If you give me multiple pretty icons to choose from, this can be an arduous decision. Scrolling just “is” – I don’t have to think about it, I let you make the decisions, and it’s one continuous “swipe…swipe…swipe.” It’s automatic. It’s ingrained. It’s in my muscle memory. No decisions. Just subconscious repetitive activity.
What does this mean for website design?
Do not hide important information behind a click. Key messages should appear during scrolling. If you want your website visitor to get a good idea of who you are and what benefit your services offer to them, make sure this information is provided within a scroll or two. We also recommend a call to action (CTA) form on your homepage that prompts website visitors to sign up for your weekly posts or get in touch with you for more information. The CTA on your homepage is where it is fully appropriate to ask users for more of a commitment.
If you have been trained in the design practice of “everything above the fold,” let me take a minute to reassure you. The “above the fold” design trend no longer applies because your user is so accustomed to scrolling. Should you have the most pertinent information above the first fold of your homepage? Obviously. But that is no longer because your user will not scroll, it is simply because that is the first impression you want to provide to your website visitors.
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