by anthony on 01/10/12 at 12:18 pm
Which is better for users, scrolling or clicking? This is the question that designers have to think about when they’re designing page flow. Clicking offers users a menu of links that take them to a new page. Scrolling offers users all the content divided into different sections on a single page.
Many years ago, clicking was the simple answer to this question. The general thought was that if you made your page too long, users would only view and read the top half and glance over or ignore the bottom half. Today, things have changed. Many users do scroll to the end of the page and have no problem doing so. Scrolling has become a second-nature and clicking a chore. As user behavior changes over time, designers need to take that into account in their designs.
There are advantages and disadvantages to both scrolling and clicking. However, the advantages outweigh the disadvantages for scrolling. Scrolling is faster for users than clicking. With mouse wheels and touchpad swipes, users can scroll through content with a flick of a finger. Compared that with clicking, where users have to find the link, read it, target it, click it and wait for the page to load.
Users get content in the order that it’s designed on the page with a glimpse of everything. With clicking, users can skip a link and go to the next one without ever visiting the pages they skipped.
Scrolling keeps users in their reading flow. They scroll to continue reading until they read the end of the page. Clicking breaks the user’s reading flow because after they’re through with a page, they have to stop and click the link to the next one. Users also don’t have to wait for a new page to load, which can further break reading flow. All they have to do is scroll to the next section.
Clicking doesn’t win out on speed or ease of use, but it also has its advantages. Clicking allows you to track user clicks to a page with analytics. You can’t do this with scrolling. The only thing you can track is the top-level page, not the sub-sections.
Each page will have a link that you can share with others. This link will also index in search engines. With scrolling, only the top-level page will index.
There are trade-offs between clicking and scrolling. It seems that scrolling is better for usability. But clicking is better for analytics and search engines. As the designer, it’s your job to weigh what’s important. Knowing the advantages of scrolling and clicking will help you decide which way to go. However, if the user experience is what you’re after, scrolling is the answer.