You’ve probably seen them everywhere; loved some and hated others. Long scrolling websites have evolved from a need to give impatient users on mobiles, tablets, smart TVs (and don’t forget desktops) everything they want and no more, in the shortest possible time and in the most engaging way.
NZ’s most well known example could be Xero. One of my favourite is Spotify.
Well built responsive long scrolling pages tend to be more engaging because a series of concise content pieces are highly visual, easily digested. Each section of content tends to be contained by a single screen regardless of the device/screen size.
Stories unfold in enticing pieces and are easy for users to browse, digest and engage with.
Common features of successful long scrolling pages include:
Blocks of Content
Screen sized blocks of content are often highly visual. Different background colours demark sections.
While primary navigation only requires the viewer to scroll down, it’s good practice to keep some form of menu visible so users stay in control and are less likely to leave your website. This could include:
- a top menu that is always visible and shrinks when the page scrolls down
- an icon that makes the menu accessible
- an indicator to show how many sections there are and which one is currently being viewed
Not everybody knows intuitively to scroll down. A subtle “scroll down for more” prompt or a simple graphic can be the difference between a lost visitor and an engaged user.
Intuitive and Understated
Clean and simple design draws your attention to the story. When scrolling is smooth and navigation effortless, nothing distracts from the story. When everything on the page is exactly where you expect it to be and does exactly what you expect it to do, all you see is the story.
Great design can almost go unnoticed.
Long Scroll vs Infinite Scroll
You may have also heard the term Infinite Scrolling. Infinite scrolling is similar to long scrolling but more content is loaded every time you reach the bottom of the page, like Twitter, Facebook or Yahoo.
Why you might want a long scrolling home page
Impress Your Prospects
Word of mouth is probably your most important form of marketing and converting your prospects can depend on convincing them you lead your industry. Usually the first thing they do after hearing your name is check out your web site. If they like what they see they are more likely to take the next step.
Introduce Your Business
Small, highly visual pieces of information with links to deeper content are easy to skim, digest and dive into. It’s a great way to introduce prospects to your business, tell your story and let them click deeper to fill in what ever gaps they need filled.
Mobile Target Audience
One finger scrolling is the most natural way to navigate a page on a phone. If your customers live on their phones you have a stronger case for long scrolling.
Why you might NOT want a long scrolling home page
It takes a lot of work to make a long scrolling page look amazing and function beautifully on all devices. That work comes at a cost, often two or three times the cost per page.
Do your customers need to be impressed or do they expect you to avoid overspending on marketing?
Home Page or Whole Site?
Are you tempted to build a long and stunning one page website where all information is either on your home page or in a box that pops open from your home page and there are no other pages?
Google may penalise you for this. Google likes web sites to have multiple pages that link to each other. Plenty of businesses find their customers from other sources than Google however, so only do this if you don’t rely on Google rankings.
Be careful of the affect this could have on your conversion/enquiry rate too. People get frustrated when they don’t find navigation intuitive or if they can’t easily find their way back to something they read in a popup box. For many web site visitors, hiding content in popup boxes is counter-intuitive and makes browsing your web site difficult.
A long scrolling website with one single page might be an intuitive way to give your prospects what they need. If not, consider a long scrolling home page with multiple (responsive) supporting pages. The home page gives a great first impression, it’s easy to find more information via supporting pages and supporting pages are simple, easy to navigate and the user feels comfortable and in full control.
If you use WordPress you’ll have access to a massive selection of gorgeous long scrolling themes. There are 2 areas where cost can get away from you:
1. Choosing Themes
It often surprises me how quickly hours vanish once I start browsing themes. I think I’ve found the perfect theme so I spend a few minutes checking it out. Everything is going well, it looks great, it seems to do everything I want and then whammo – the logo doesn’t quite fit or that fabulous looking banner is slightly the wrong aspect ratio for the images we paid a fortune for last month.
3 hours are gone and it’s back to the drawing board.
2. Customising Themes
Even more frustrating is once the theme is chosen, our developer spends 7 hours applying the theme and adding content and then discovers the graphic designer planned a change to the theme that will require an extra 10 hours to implement. It takes a lot of code to make themes look amazing AND be easy to edit the content within them. Sometime altering them can take a lot of work.
Both situations are very common when using WordPress themes. My best advice is to choose a Theme that looks amazing and is very close to what you need and then be happy with it. Change the colours but not the layout. Not even a little bit.
WordPress is an amazing system. It started as a blogging platform and grew into an all-singing-all-dancing wonder. When you need WordPress, there is nothing better.
This means that each time a page loads a LOT of code is processed and when pages are sent to the web browser they can include a lot of code. Depending on the theme and plug-ins you choose, page sizes can be large and load times can be slow.
A good web developer can work wonders with Foundation or Bootstrap (we use Foundation because we find it easier and faster to learn, use and stay current with). Through clever and efficient use of simple code, pieces of content can be shown in different sizes, positions, with different word wrapping or not shown at all on different devices.
If you can’t live with the layout of a WordPress theme as it comes out of the box, our experience is that it’s more efficient to hand code responsive page layouts with Foundation than it is to use a WordPress theme, figure out how the code works and then customise it.
Anyware Content Manager
Anyware’s Content Manager is a nice middle ground. It allows you to easily edit content when the layout is simple and it doesn’t allow you to break anything you don’t want to break such as page headers, footers and navigation. It uses Foundation to make your pages and content responsive so we have complete and efficient control over every thing on every page.
You can’t easily edit highly visual long scrolling pages that are fully optimised for multiple devices because they require a lot of Foundation code embedded in the content, but most people don’t want to edit that kind of content.
The bottom line?
If you want a nice looking long scrolling page, you love WordPress, you’re happy to stick with a Theme out of the box and you don’t mind your web site loading a little slower then go with WordPress.
If the finer details of page layouts are important to you and you can’t live with slow loading pages, go with hand coding or Anyware’s Content Manager.
If you can’t decide feel free to give us a call. Helping people decide is what we do best.