So You Want People to Know They Can Scroll Your Website

I went on a little bit of a Twitter rant today. It all stemmed from a proliferation of website designs I’ve come across that include microcopy telling you that you can scroll the webpage. Novel idea, huh?

This feels all sorts of wrong to me, for several reasons:

  1. Scrolljacking
  2. Not displaying content using standard markup (ie. using JavaScript for everything)
  3. Poor design decisions like removing scrollbars from the page

I can’t help but to pick on the example I saw today: Cuberto. Nevermind that this site starts off on the wrong foot by including a loading spinner. I really wish this would have died with Flash, but no we still want to delay the arrival of any sort of content so people still get that extra rectal insertion of brand into the experience.

But once you actually get to see content, the page includes a lot accessibility concerns that make me cringe: a spinning starfield-like animation that made even me a little dizzy; auto-playing ambient music, if you want to call it that; and an animation of an abstracted mouse whose intent is to let me know that I can scroll the webpage. A novel idea! But wait! The one default way that you can tell that a page is scrollable—the one indicator that’s been around since the dawn of the Web, the clue that every user of the Web has experienced on damn near every other website—is nowhere to be found: a scrollbar.

I don’t mean to pick on or single-out Cuberto. They certainly are far from the only website that has this sort of anti-pattern these days. A quick perusal of sites like Unmatched Style or SiteInspire and you are bound to see dozens of these JavaScript-laden, scroll-jacky monsters that want to tell you that you can use one of the most simplistic computing interactions because it’s so un-obvious to a typical user otherwise.

Here’s the thing designers: maybe don’t hijack these default user interface elements. Maybe don’t over-saturate your source code with bloated JavaScript libraries just so you can animate everything in sight. Maybe don’t break the default functionality of the Web. And then maybe we want have to teach our users how to scroll a damn webpage.