Utilizing the Cut-off Look to Encourage Users To Scroll

Jared Spool

August 2nd, 2006

Clients still frequently ask us about scrolling on pages. In our recent virtual seminar on home page design, we received two such questions:

What’s the latest findings related to “above the fold” and scrolling?

and

Does the purpose of your site determine how much scrolling you can get away with? In our studies, we have found users don’t expect to scroll on the home page.

Not much has changed in our observations since we released our original research on the subject. Basically, users have no trouble scrolling, as long as the page is designed to accommodate it.

For example, look at the Cognos.com home page, in an 800×600 browser window:

Click to see the Cognos.com Home Page in a Window
Click to see the Cognos.com home page in a small browser window.

Because of the design of this page, we’d expect to see users not scroll. It isn’t because users of the site have something against scrolling. It’s because the way the page falls in the window, it looks like the entire page loaded.

When all the sections end evenly on the page, users subconsciously decide there isn’t anything else to look for and don’t try to scroll. Of course, if they don’t scroll, they miss important content, such as the list of products:

The bottom of the Cognos Home Page, hidden below the fold.

This means they may miss the thing they are coming to the site to find.

Interestingly, the home page for Cognos Support doesn’t have the same problem. Its sections don’t evenly end at bottom of the screen.

Click to see the Cognos Support Home Page in a Window
Click to see the Cognos.com Support home page in a browser window.

Instead, its sections seem to be cut off at the bottom, subtly communicating to the user there is more to see below. In our studies, the same users would be far more likely to scroll on this page then they would on the Cognos home page.

Along the same lines, we received this question:

How does NY Times solve the scrolling problem, i.e. entice people below the fold?

They use the same technique as the Cognos Support home page, but making things feel “cut off.”

Click to see the NY Times Home Page in a Window
Click to see the NY Times home page in a browser window.

If our clients are finding their users aren’t scrolling, we suggest they look for a reason beyond “Users don’t expect to scroll” and see if maybe the design of the page is preventing it. By going for that Cut-off look, they might find their users are suddenly happy to scroll.

52 Responses to “Utilizing the Cut-off Look to Encourage Users To Scroll”

  1. Stan Arnold Says:

    I’m a copywriter, and have worked for blue-chip clients all over the world. I will not waste my time scrolling, unless the first page tells me I have arrived at a place that will deliver the benefits I need.

    I’ve seen many hundreds of sites that don’t do this. 10 seconds of ‘what the hell is going on here?’ and I’m off. And don’t get me started on websites that ‘tell a story’. Yawn.

  2. If It Needs a Sign, It’s Probably Bad Design - Nigerian’s Trending News Today & Around The World Says:

    […] Making content feel “cut off” so that people scroll or swipe to see more is a strategy that’s been used and discussed for at least a decade. “By going for that Cut-off look, [designers] might find their users are suddenly happy to scroll,” wrote UX designer Jared Spool back in 2006. […]

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