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A popular topic in interactive design is that of scrolling. When is it ok to scroll? Is it ok to scroll? Will people know they can scroll? What information should be above the fold?

Above the fold

When web design began the designers were mostly trained print designers since interactive design was a new field and "web" designers didn't exist. The concept of "the fold" is one that print designers imported from newspaper design. The goal of designing "above the fold" was to keep the most important headlines and images in the top half of the newspaper so when it was folded in half at the newsstand the most enticing information would be visible and passers-by would stop and buy the paper.

With the internet the concept of designing web pages with the important information above the fold, keeping key information viewable without scrolling vertically, was met with a new challenge: monitor variety. When a publisher produces a newspaper every customer gets the same sized paper. The content that is above the fold for one reader is the same for every reader. With web design the variety of monitors, browser chromes, and resolutions is so diverse that there is no standard height for where the fold begins. The fold on my phone is alot different than the fold on my 27inch desktop monitor. The ipad has not one but two folds: one in portrait orientation but a shorter fold in landscape orientation.

Ignore the fold

People's fear is that important information will never be found if it is below the fold. That somehow people (not themselves of course) don't know how or when to scroll to find additional information so the solution must be to cram as much content at the top of a page as possible. This is ridiculous. Usability tests continue to prove that not only do users scroll but scrolling can actually improve the user experience. If people feel they are on the right track they will continue to scroll for content.

Advice:

  • Design pages that are legible and attractive. If your application is well designed it encourages people to explore the document and they will scroll on their own.
  • Vertical scrolling only. While users can scroll vertically as well as horizontally, generally speaking a page should do one or the other and people prefer vertical scrolling. Vertical scrolling is a more standard method of navigating content as well as the simple fact that most scroll wheels move vertically and not horizontally. Vertical scrolling is just easier.
  • Monitor Resolution. To avoid horizontal scrolling you should know your intended audience. I use analytical data to find the largest number of users with the lowest common resolution and design for that. 1024x768 is still a decent standard size as well as being the resolution of the ipad in landscape orientation.
4 Comments
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Ok I agree that web designers and QV designers in general dont have to fear the scroll. But there are some cases that scrolling could deliver to bad user experience, for example when you're deigning balanced scorecards. You need the whole view.

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Agree, and there are tons of well designed websites to prove this, but to use scroll on a dashboard you need to have some layout elements to drive user's eyes, and this requires a lot of non-data pixels which are precious on a dashboard..

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This is true - there will always be exceptions. If you know where the fold is for most of your users you can certainly design the page so most (or all) of the content is available without  scrolling. The larger issue I run into is when people think scrolling is always bad, which is a demonstrable fallacy.

I can also envision a Dashboard design that scrolls and be fine with that as well since people may consume a dashboard on a variety of devices and you can't design for all variables. I think the best advice is to have an awareness of what you are designing, who you are designing it for, and use your best judgement.

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Valued Contributor II

As a rule of thumb, it is best to avoid scrolling in BI design for much the same reason it is better to avoid synthetic keys in QlikView - not because of anything being inherently wrong with it, but because it's often indicative of a design flaw somewhere else.

In dashboards, it is almost always wrong to have scrollbars. This has been covered extensively in the existing literature on dashboard design, and there's not much room for discussion. I do agree with Thiago here - if you can drive the user to scroll in a dashboard, you can use a scrollbar - but to do so is often wasteful.

When it comes to "regular" QV sheets, I try to avoid scrollbars where I can. One of the primary reasons for this is that I often have important selections at the top of the screen (often the date selections), and forcing users to scroll down will hide these, making the user's life more difficult as they'd have to constantly scroll up and down to get things done. This is also true if you have standard left-side selections that go past the normal monitor resolution (designing for x768 and leaving enough room for a large taskbar is generally a good idea here), as users may be forced to scroll up and down to make selections. For users of browser editions of QV, things get even worse here, as additional monitor real-estate is taken up by menus, buttons, and bars.

One place where I have absolutely no problem with scrollbars is inside charts - in fact, I often use graph scrollbars intentionally to provide users with a "Top X" view that doesn't actually clump everything else into an "Other" group. In straight/pivot tables, it is generally expected that you'll have to scroll down (but not left-right, ideally). Legends are the exception here - if you have more values than you can fit in your legend to begin with, your graph design probably needs to be reconsidered.

When you are about to introduce a scrollbar, always ask yourself if it is really necessary. If the answer is yes, that's fine - but don't just resign yourself to forcing users to scroll any time your original design doesn't fit on a single page.

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