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The dangers of scroll hijacking in web design

Trent Walton's article 'Scroll Hijacking' says that a user's expectation of a website's scrolling interaction shouldn't be destroyed for the sake of narrative experience.

He cites the case of Apple's recent product pages, which stop the scrolling in targeted places on the page. I previously wrote about how I liked that, but I've changed my mind about it.

Creating an immersive experience with a strong narrative is something to behold when it's done right. There is also a trend happening right now where long scrolling pages with specific sections have animations or more deeply engineered interactions designed into them.

These are great and I love discovering those same websites and taking in the content. But we must be careful with this approach since one small miscue can cause the whole experience to fall apart.

When you undermine users' expectations of how a particular control for a web page works, it can break down their experience and create a negative reaction.

If you're overtaking the scroll rate of a page, you're taking away the user's controls to get through the content of the page in their own time.

Making links open in a new browser window, non-underlined links that blend in with the body copy, not linking the logo on a page back to the homepage: all these small details that lack hard and fast rules against them are all things that can detract from a user's experience. Interactions are tiny, but mighty.

Check out these examples of bad scrolling interaction:

01. iPad Air

The page design for the Apple iPad Air is a huge offender in stopping the rate at which you can scroll the page on your own. It's a nice effect until you want to skip through some of the content.

02. Kit Kat

The website for Kit Kat delivers a narrative via a long scrolling page with tons of interactions and large images. It lets the user control how to take in the content: fast or slow, or even by using the provided navigation on the side of the page.

03. ConvergeRVA

Be careful of stopping a user in their tracks. When a user gets to the map using a mobile device on our old ConvergeRVA conference site, the map's scroll overtooks the user's scroll capability and stopped the page dead. We fixed this on the new version of the site.

Words: Gene Crawford

Gene's mission is to work tirelessly at providing inspiration and insight for developers. This article originally appeared in net magazine issue 249.