Scrolling vs. Clicking: What’s the Preferred User Experience?

Scrolling vs clicking: which website navigation does your audience prefer?

This article was updated on May 10, 2018. For our latest insights on user journeys, check out Website Navigation: UX Design Best Practices.

As a web design and development company, we obviously have a serious interest in user behaviours. How and why your website’s visitors engage with different kinds of content is the key to designing the optimal user experience. Understanding their preferences in website navigation is going to help them find what they want — and help you get those conversions.

Scrolling and clicking each have their place in web design. Let’s look at which website navigation experience is ideal for the different areas of your site.

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Users Are Conditioned for Scrolling

Today’s user has learned scrolling from years spent cruising the digital landscape. Their favourite social media feeds scroll, and the websites they use for research or to do shopping also have scrolling functionality. From Gen Z to the Baby Boomers, most people are now used to scrolling.

And for mobile devices, scrolling is the most comfortable and intuitive type of website navigation. As smart phones get bigger and heavier, the importance of making navigation simple and accessible within thumb’s reach is critical to whether your visitors engage with your content — or bounce from your site.

From a user experience (UX) perspective, scrolling is also the ideal navigation for the buyer’s journey. By spreading out scannable content, and creating multiple access points to key information, it’s easier for your visitor to digest your content, and to reach a decision.  

Is your content giving your customers a headache? Read 3 Tools to Improve Your Content’s Readability.

When it comes to delivering all of the awesome information on your website and keeping users engaged, scrolling is the most natural and efficient means of navigation.

More pros of the scroll:

  • It delivers content more quickly, because there is no need to wait for pages to load
  • It doesn’t require a commitment by forcing users to choose a button — or pick between multiple buttons — and abandon their current page
  • It allows visitors to digest information at their own rate

Making clicks count

Even though scrolling is the most natural method for digesting information, clicks are an integral part of both mobile and desktop website navigation experiences.

From opening your menu to choosing a case study or blog to read from your landing pages, there are some activities that absolutely require clicking. However, clicks can sometimes become a barrier between your user and their goal. It’s important to make those clicks easy and intuitive, so that your user can always tell where they are going and what they’ll find when they get there.

Clicks ask the visitor to make a decision, so placing clicks too early in their journey can also be a deterrent. For example, your homepage should provide enough information for someone to understand who you are, what you offer, and which area of your website is their next logical step. They shouldn’t have to click and navigate to other pages to find this most basic information.

Tips to improve the clicking experience:

  • Use clear, concise copy on all CTA buttons
  • Minimize the number of clicks required to complete a transaction, fill out a form, or reach the end step in another process — each click is a potential drop-off point
  • Make clickable content easy to tap on mobile devices — even with big fingers
  • Use clicks sparingly within content that should be scrolled (ex. a table of contents within a blog, or expandable buckets of copy on a services page)
  • Avoid forcing the user to click to finish reading — pagination within articles is no fun!

Which content should be scrolled, and which should be clicked?

We asked our awesome team of designers and developers to break down exactly where you would want to use scrolling website navigation for a winning user experience, and where you should use clicking. For a typical website, this is what they recommend:

  • Top-level content should be scannable, CTA-focused, accessible, and be a decision-making tool. Scrolling navigation is optimal for your primary landing pages.
  • Secondary content is more specific, but still has the same needs as far as accessibility. Scrolling is also ideal for interior landing pages, such as product categories.
  • Tertiary content is typically accessed when the user is committed and ready to get down to business. Clicking works well on pages like individual products or services, and for lateral navigation between recommended related content to foster continued exploration and discovery.

Part of our job as a web design and development agency is to understand who your audience is, what they need, and how best to deliver it to them at each stage of their journey — and then bring that to life in website design. Whether it’s scrolling or clicking, it’s always about crafting that great user experience.