Web Usability: Scrolling vs Clicking

When working on a new design it is important to consider how the flow of content will affect the usability for the intended audience. The question often arises, which is better for users on a website, scrolling down the page or clicking through to a new page?

Scrolling presents all the information on one single page divided in to the appropriate sections of content. Clicking presents links and buttons that will take users to a new page of content.

Visitor Behaviour

Until recently the general consensus was that if a page were too long, containing too much content then users would only read the top section of the page and miss all the content below. More recent behavior of web users shows that most do scroll down the page and are not deterred from doing so by lengthy content. Scrolling is becoming a more natural way to view web content and the act of clicking through to new pages to view further content is now being seen as ‘clunky’ and tiresome. This shift in user behavior is now informing the web design process.

Scrolling Advantages

There are however advantages and disadvantages to both the scrolling and clicking methods. In the case of scrolling it would seem that the advantages are superior to the disadvantages. Firstly, scrolling is faster than clicking for web users. Modern devices now include touch pads with ‘swiping’ action and scrolling mouse wheels mean that users can scroll through lengthy pages of content with a simple action. Moving through content by clicking involves the user having to complete several tasks. Firstly, the user has to find the link, then read the link, then target the link, then click the link and finally wait for the new page of content to load.

With scrolling users on a page can see all the content in the correct order it is designed to be displayed. With clicking on the other hand users can easily miss links and move to pages without knowing what content they have missed.

Scrolling also helps users maintain their natural reading flow. This enables the users to reach the end of content naturally. The action of clicking breaks the users reading flow as they have to pick up again when the next page loads as well as having to stop and start again with each lick through.

Despite the draw backs of speed and ease of use there are a few advantages to clicking over scrolling. When users click to new content one can track users behavior with analytics. This is not possible with scrolling as all the information is presented on one page making it more difficult to track users behavior. With clicking each page will have its own link which can be shared with other users. These links will also be indexed in search engines. Again, with scrolling only the top level of the page will be indexed.

Comparing scrolling and clicking there are pros and cons to be argued for each. Scrolling would appear to be the better option for usability, whereas clicking has the benefits of analytics and being better indexed by search.

Designers have to consider which is the most important factor and the better option for the user. When it comes to promoting a more intuitive and natural experience enabling users to fully take in lengthy content it would seem that scrolling is the better option – by far.