Long scrolling websites are all the rage, and let me start by saying that I have designed and advocated for them on several client sites, like this one:
I started noticing crazy long web pages a few years ago, thanks to tablet and mobile devices that making scrolling easy and fun, usability studies that show scrolling is preferable to clicking, and improving internet speeds that allow us to present more data at once to users.
However, just because users accept scrolling doesn’t mean that we as designers should use this as a cop out to just slam a bunch of content on one page so we don’t have to think through prioritization of messaging and a good overall site strategy. In fact, the “fold” still matters — web users spend 80% of their time looking at information above the page fold. Although users do scroll, they allocate only 20% of their attention below the fold. (from a study by usability god Jakob Nielsen).
Before you start laying out a web page with a height of 5,000 pixels, ask yourself these questions:
Do you have a story to tell?
The best long scrolling sites have something to say. They have features to explain, chronological content to share and scannable, succinct headlines to lead you along. Also, beware of copy fort the sake of copy. Keep it clear and consistent. Get to the point. Just because you have infinite space doesn’t mean you need to fill it with crappy content.
Do you have interesting creative assets to keep the user engaged?
Let’s face it, not every client or every site has amazing imagery to keep the user interested. If your site is one of them, perhaps consider a different approach. On the other hand, if you have enticing imagery, it is an effective tool for breaking up copy and encouraging the reader to keep discovering.
Do you have good navigation and headers to guide the user along?
Nothing is more annoying than scrolling down a page with no concept of where you are or how much further you have to scroll. Provide sticky navigation at the top of the page that follows you and allows the user to jump easily between sections.
Do you have visible and enticing calls to action?
Remember, users spend 80% of their focus above the fold. This is where your most important call to action should live. After that, put yourself in your user’s shoes. Did they just scroll down and learn about a really awesome feature? Would they want to learn more at this point? Offer a clear call to action at this point on the page.
Overall, my best advice is just to keep using your awesome little design brain. Think about prioritization of content— no matter what anybody tells you, the content at the top of the page is always going to be the most important. Ask yourself if there is a REASON you are creating a really long page, or if you are just doing it because that is what everyone on Dribbble is doing these days.
And, to inspire you a bit more, here are some great sites that are lovely but fairly succinct when it comes to page length! Enjoy.