Scroll, Click or Squint?

There were a lot of comments on the redesign announcement (now closed so I can digest). A lot of those comments were as long—if not longer—than the original post. Larger text is easier on the eyes but murder on the scroll finger. Conventional wisdom says there are three ways to handle the problem of long pages containing chunks of content of variable length:

  • scroll (or “just deal with it”)
  • click (add pagination)
  • or squint (reduce type size)

Am I overlooking something obvious? Have you come across any interesting solutions to the problem?

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Author
Shaun Inman
Posted
October 19th, 2006 at 9:40 am
Categories
Design
Web
Comments
041 (Now closed)

041 Comments

001

You could set it up so that, when your mouse in in the bottom 15 pixels of the browser window, it automatically scrolls down at a comfortable reading rate?

Author
David Barrett
Posted
Oct 19th, 2006 10:05 am
002

I prefer the “just deal with it” method.

I don’t think it’s as bad as people think, and I’d rather scroll than click or squint: I am not a fan of pagination (unless it makes sense, like an alphabetized directory of sorts), and I certainly do not like to squint, as I already have vision problems to deal with.

I think your site is just fine Shaun! :P

Author
Jina Bolton
Posted
Oct 19th, 2006 10:17 am
003

I’m usually a hater of pagination (and in a blog as simple and well-designed as this, I would be against it), but the one example I can get behind is IHT’s amazing multi-column, faux-multi-page interface. (See an article like this one for example, since the site inexplicably doesn’t seem to use the format universally.) Not only does the content re-flow between columns as the window size changes, it also dedicates each of the border columns as the “next/previous” triggers, and it loads up the next “page” without a new pageload (and sans Ajax).

Yeah yeah, we’ll all be doing it once CSS3 columns are usable. But for now, they’ve got the nicest solution I’ve seen. Too bad their recent “redesign” complicated their interface unnecessarily, and borked some of their Safari compatibility.

Author
Justin Reese
Posted
Oct 19th, 2006 10:31 am
004

I’m fine “just dealing with it.” I don’t see what the big deal is: when I’m reading I have a hand on the mouse anyway for clicking links and because almost nothing I read is “scroll free”.

I wouldn’t complain if there were a smooth scrolling option like David describes, although that seems like it would be handier as a browser plugin than a site-specific script.

Author
PZ
Posted
Oct 19th, 2006 10:43 am
005

I think the site looks great, and I wouldn’t change it with pagination or smaller fonts. The site is easy on the eyes - for reading and digesting all of the pieces. I prefer a system like this to one that has too many distractions while you are trying to read the post/comment.

As for the scrolling, I am in the ‘deal with it’ crowd. To me, this is the best option to handle the design as it stands. As others have stated, pagination makes sense when their is a list of sorts. I don’t like the idea of pagination on an article/post - I like to digest it all on one page (same with comments).

Author
Nate K
Posted
Oct 19th, 2006 10:45 am
006

Google Reader has some interesting solutions: You can click on an item in the “reader list” and it automatically scrolls to the top of the page, or you can use space bar to scroll to a new item or scroll a long one.

Author
Anders
Posted
Oct 19th, 2006 10:46 am
007

I agree with the “just deal with it” method. Personally, I don’t think it’s that bad, since you provided the previous and next comment link. That is quite handy.

Author
Alex Beard
Posted
Oct 19th, 2006 10:52 am
008

There has been lots of research in this area and I think the general consensus is that scrolling is fine. I know I’ve tested this with people specifically and found people had no problem with a long scroll.

From a personal standpoint I hate pagination, for a few reasons. If an article is really long, I’ll print it out and sometimes pagination screws that up. If it’s not, I like it all on one page anyway.

Also, you mentioned comments. I think it’s a real pain to have comments on a different page (either via pagination or simply moving the comments away from the article) as I often need to refer back to what I’m commenting on. Using a scroll for that action is by far easier than clicking back through pages. Plus your back and next links could be really helpful on really, really long pages with lots of comments.

As far as the text size, I guess I usually prefer it a bit smaller, but here it’s not that bad. Plus I’m sure I can resize if I need to right?

Anyway, I think you should just keep it as it is. ;0)

Author
Keith
Posted
Oct 19th, 2006 11:09 am
009

Deal with it is the best solution. I have yet to meet anyone who loves to click to read the next page in an article, and people have the power to shrink the text on your site if they so desired.

Author
ramanan
Posted
Oct 19th, 2006 11:16 am
010

I like your previous / next comment solution. Other than that, dealing with it is the best way! :)

Author
Lee
Posted
Oct 19th, 2006 11:22 am
011

Deal with it.

Author
Sam Brown
Posted
Oct 19th, 2006 11:25 am
012

I love J/K in Google Reader, as well as N/P in a “conversation” in Gmail.

I’m a big fan of your latest design effort as well. If nothing else, you’re pushing boundaries and thinking outside the box.

Author
Mark
Posted
Oct 19th, 2006 11:26 am
013

Go ahead and include me in the “just deal with it” crowd.

Author
Jason
Posted
Oct 19th, 2006 11:54 am
014

I’m one for the just deal with it crowd. I personally find it ok, and if you think about it, if you are reading each comment, your finger has a little time to rest while you read the post :) Also, I can’t remember exactly, but are you normally going to get so many comments on one post? The post was bound to big because it’s about a redesign.

Author
Dave H
Posted
Oct 19th, 2006 11:58 am
015

You could do something where people can click a button or use an accesskey that will scroll down to the next comment.

Author
Elliot Swan
Posted
Oct 19th, 2006 12:20 pm
016

I am of the “Just Deal With It” mind. However, there is always the alternate font size solution that you could introduce up at the top for those with “scrolitis” and love to squint.

Author
Joshua Brewer
Posted
Oct 19th, 2006 1:06 pm
017

Deal with it!! Scroll wheels on new mouse/keyboard designs are about as common as CD players in cars. Everyone who wants a good user experience wouldn’t think of going without. Scrolling is the most natural way to deal with long content. iPods do it. Movie credits do it. And with a half inch movement of my index finger, I can do it too.

Author
Chris Grocki
Posted
Oct 19th, 2006 1:30 pm
018

I’m in the “Just deal with it” camp in general. However, I would say that the problem is exacerbated on this site by the fact that the area for body text is very thin. Scrolling could be greatly reduced if the content area was stretchy (perhaps only up to a point, you don’t want it too wide either). Even at 800x600 there’s a lot of unused space which could be utilised to reduce the ammount of scrolling required.

Author
Michael McLoughlin
Posted
Oct 19th, 2006 1:40 pm
019

Give the user the option to resize the text with multiple css implementations. Now everybody is happy.

Author
Stephen McKenna
Posted
Oct 19th, 2006 1:48 pm
020

IE7 & zoom at 70% is comfortable for me, and slots in the “deal with it” category =)

Author
karan
Posted
Oct 19th, 2006 4:03 pm
021

i dig the font size - but why not just make it a little wider? that’d cut down on scrolling by quite a bit, and there’s room @ 1024 to do it.

Author
paul
Posted
Oct 19th, 2006 4:52 pm
022

+1 for just deal w/ it. i find the site easy to read and scroll. the archive is a bit limited but i love the minimal nature of the site. another wonderful design and the fading concept is quite ingenious. cheers!

Author
bv
Posted
Oct 19th, 2006 5:17 pm
023

I would enjoy if it was layed out as a series of book pages, where you’d continually scroll to the RIGHT instead of down. I don’t believe the mousewheel will respond to this by default, correct?

Maybe you could do the click, but make it reader-selectable.

Also, I’d take the text size of the comments down as much, it’s just too big, and it’s not as important as the article text.

(It’s also slightly dark and scarry in here.) =( I like the light-on-dark for readability, but it feels like the lights are out. I prefer Veerle’s approach, where there’s lighter text and some color here and there.

Author
Brad
Posted
Oct 19th, 2006 6:51 pm
024

You could set it up so that, when your mouse in in the bottom 15 pixels of the browser window, it automatically scrolls down at a comfortable reading rate?

Like so? Bookmarklet | Source

It’s nothing extra-ordinary but with a bit of tweaking you might get something going in all browsers. It does work in Safari and Firefox, but the margins don’t always adjust. Feel free to adjust if you feel so inclined :-).

Author
Vincent Grouls
Posted
Oct 19th, 2006 7:42 pm
025

There’s always the hard(ware) fix ;)

Author
Reid
Posted
Oct 19th, 2006 7:52 pm
026

I have to agree, and go with the scrolling crowd.

If you went the way of auto-scrolling, I think you would be adding in fancy javascript that I thought you were trying to move away from for the time being. I like the simplicity and message the current design has. The auto-scroll could be mistakenly triggered if you were trying to highlight a brick of text, and that would be really annoying.

I think scrolling is fine. You could decrease the type slightly, but that would be another exercise in typesetting that I’m not sure you want to revisit.

Overall, I have to give you kudos. The redesign brings a lot of thoughts to the brain, and I’m happy that more designers will question their work and have more perspective when viewing this, than joining the hordes commenting on just not liking the colors ;)

Author
Gotham
Posted
Oct 19th, 2006 9:09 pm
027

I’d have to say just deal with it. The scrolling doesn’t bother me, I hate pagination as it requires more clicks than are needed, and tiny text gives me a headache when in a large amount.

Author
Joshua Kendall
Posted
Oct 19th, 2006 9:13 pm
028

Scroll ftw! That’s pretty much what I expected and what I prefer (both as a user and as a developer) but I figured I would put this up there, let everyone have a shake at the tree and see what fell out.

I had come across IHT’s paging before and was quite impressed. The auto-scrolling idea is pretty neat too. I think the biggest problem people were having (myself included) was referring to (multiple) earlier comments when writing their own comment. Scrolling up and down to reread the comment you are responding to can be tiresome. Neither really addresses that problem (but how could they since I hadn’t mentioned the motivation for this post).

Jonathan Snook experimented with a “sticky” comment form that I quite like. Who knows, maybe something similar will make its way into 9.1.

Author
Shaun Inman
Posted
Oct 19th, 2006 11:45 pm
029

Deal with it! I don’t mind scrolling at all. The typography is great right now with the font sizing. It focuses more on the content which is obviously what you want.

Author
Mat
Posted
Oct 20th, 2006 2:03 am
030

Yes, something akin to Snook’s ‘sticky’ form would work perfectly! I don’t have an issue with the scrolling apart from referencing comments (on this site and many others), so this would be a great solution. Shaun, go for it!

Author
Elliot Jay Stocks
Posted
Oct 20th, 2006 6:41 am
031

I like to scroll. I also like the stick comment box, but feel it is a bit distracting. I wish it could be sticky only when I need it to be.

Author
Nathan
Posted
Oct 20th, 2006 8:55 am
032

I agree Nathan, I’m thinking along those same lines.

Author
Shaun Inman
Posted
Oct 20th, 2006 9:04 am
033

+1 for “deal with it” for me. But also +1 for “the type is a bit too large for me”. Plus the wide leading it really gets very space-consuming and therefore very “scrolly”.

I wanted to help myself to a slighty smaller text-size and was surprised to see that the column width is font-size-dependent so sizing down the text in the browser does not help as much as it could.

Does not change my opinion that this is the best redesign in years and the radical minimal approach (that HAD to lead to some controversy) is the best part of it, me thinks. Thanks for showing spine, Shaun.

Author
Tilman
Posted
Oct 20th, 2006 11:58 am
034

Everyone these days have a scroll wheel :) It wouldn’t be funny without it.

Author
Emanuel
Posted
Oct 20th, 2006 12:14 pm
035

First off, I really love your site re-design. The concept alone is really great and I dig the fact that you put more thought into it than just the aesthetics. It actually HAS a concept behind it. I think most designers can’t really say that anymore about their sites.

I’m in the “Just Deal With It” camp. I think the font size and color is real nice. It’s easy on the eyes and very readable. I think its pretty sad if we’ve gotten to the point where we’re so lazy that we can’t even SCROLL without complaining about it now.

Great work! I will be visiting daily.

Author
Wes
Posted
Oct 20th, 2006 3:58 pm
036

Even though the Next/Previous comment links work very, very nicely, the font size still bothers me. Donno, maybe I just have to get used to it.

Author
Fernando Lins
Posted
Oct 20th, 2006 9:24 pm
037

I’d love to be able to say “paginate” and mean it - in a world of instant downloads, akin to reading a newspaper, where the content is a turn of a page away - but we all know that isn’t the case.

I think the best case (as already mentioned) is the IHT.

I don’t think widening the column would work well - line length would be too great.

In light of this, kudos for the scrolling + large type combo and sticking with it… how about a reversed stylesheet though for those of us who do like the page of newsprint in the sun effect?

Author
Allister
Posted
Oct 21st, 2006 5:28 am
038

I’d like the option of choosing my font and size. Scrolling to see if you wrote any more articles kind of sucks.

Author
Adrian
Posted
Oct 22nd, 2006 1:02 pm
039

scrolling is cool. i’d rather scroll than click through, especially since in most browsers you can just hit the space bar to scroll down.

Author
nick botulism
Posted
Oct 23rd, 2006 11:40 pm
040

I’m in the “Deal With It” camp. The scroll wheel is my friend.

Another option - On some sites where text is too small I use the control key and the scroll wheel to resize the text (Firefox/Windows) - on those sites that allow text to scale. One could also scale down text too this way.

Author
Dean
Posted
Oct 24th, 2006 9:34 am
041

Another advantage of scrolling is that I can instantly see how long the page is (and hence how much of a time investment I’m making) just by looking at the scrollbar. Nothing irks me more than viewing an article that seems short only to get down to the bottom and see:

< 1 | 2 | 3 | 4 | 5 | 6 … 40 | 41 | 42 >

Scroll, yes. I never got the “for the love of God, no scrolling” camp - I always got the impression that was just noise from clueless client execs trying to make it look like they were down with the usbility kids.

Author
hostilemonkey
Posted
Nov 10th, 2006 8:31 am