Do People Scroll? What Information Foraging Says

Do People Scroll? What Information Foraging Says


Every now and then, someone will ask me: By
now, haven’t users learned how to scroll? Are we safe if we put information
below the page fold? The answer is: yes, they’ve learned the
mechanics of scrolling and do know that some pages have
content below the fold. But they won’t scroll unless they have a
reason to do so. To understand why, let’s take a step back
and revisit the information foraging theory, which was created
at Xerox PARC. The information foraging theory asserts that
people look for information on the web in the same way in which animals forage for food
in the wild. For a bird of prey, for example, deciding
where and what to hunt for depends on how easy it is to get to the prey and on how much
energy the prey will provide. Similarly, when people land on a page, they’re
usually “hungry” for an information need or a goal. They decide whether to stay on that page or
leave it and go to a different one based on: (1) how promising the info on the page is; and
(2) how hard accessing the infomation is. As the user is looking at the page, they assess
how relevant the page is for their needs. If they cannot see anything
that seems relevant to them, they won’t bother scrolling and will just
assume the page is not what they need. So, if a page places all its important information
below the fold and uses the first screenful for a hero or a big image, chances
are that people may not discover that content below. You want to use the top of the page to announce
the type of content available; and to give users the most important pieces of information. Content at the top of the page is the most
discoverable and plays a vital role in the users’ decision to scroll or even stay on
the site.

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