There's a trending website design idea that has its place, but that place is certainly not on your home page. Today, I'll explain what this website design trend is, what's good and bad about it, and how to use it.
Social media websites have changed the way we interact with website. Before Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest, everyone thought that the internet was made up of individual web pages. But social networks gave us the idea that we could scroll down forever and never have to click to another page. This is commonly called the infinity scroll. With the amount of user generated content available on a social network, it's easy to populate a single page out to infinity.
A few recent websites designs have tried to mimic this infinity scrolling by taking all their website information and loading it right onto their home page into a single long scrolling page. Imagine having a long page with a section explaining all your services, your store history, designer lines you carry, and much, much more. Websites with these long home pages might have additional product catalog pages but they seldom have any other pages on their site.
This infinity scrolling page has caused some controversy in the marketing, search engine optimization, and website usability publications I read because it completely ignores everything we've learned about each field. I'll graze the topic of each...
Infinity Scrolling and SEO
Each search engine has invested a lot of money in trying to determine what every page on the internet is about. Every one of them has an algorithm or quasi-artificial intelligence that reads the pages on the internet and indexes them in a database. Part of that process is to determine the topic of a single page and how authoritative that page is on that topic.
The problem with long scrolling pages is simply that they cover several, and usually too many, topics at once. When you mash information about jewelry repair with custom jewelry design, then with details about Pandora charms, in with your jewelry store history... well, you end up with too much information on a single page. The search engines don't know what to do that all of that information and they certainly will not deem that long scrolling page as an authority for any single topic, except, maybe, jewelry.
I'm not sure who came up with the idea to mimic an infinity scroll on a website, but it certainly wasn't anyone who understood how search engines work.
Infinity Scrolling and Usability
Over the last 10 years, there have been many studies showing how valuable it is to have your most important information at the top of your web page. The entire SEO industry is focused around achieving top ranking simply because people will click one of the first three items they see in search results without scrolling.
Similarly, many web page designs concentrate on the virtual fold of a web page. Whatever appears above that fold will usually get clicked on, and whatever is below it mostly ignored. The controversy here is whether or not people will keep scrolling all the way down a page, or if they will look for something to click right away to drill down deeper into your site.
I've read several opinions that say people are willing to scroll because that's how we all use social media and our smartphones. On the other hand, I've read several opinions that say the digital fold of the page is still important. This is one situation that I don't have any of my own hard data against which to form an opinion, but it seems to me that users will not scroll too far away from your main navigation menu. So if you use a long scrolling page, then you should either remove your main navigation or create a sticky navigation menu that will always be visible at the top of your browser window.
Infinity Scrolling and Marketing
Internet marketers have long used something called a "squeeze page." A squeeze page is usually a very long page that tries to sell you a single product or service. That page provides details about the product, testimonials, videos, photos showing user experience, more details, a price, a discounted price, and a limited time offer for you to buy now. I've seen squeeze pages with 6000 words on it.
Those squeeze pages are simply long sales letters on a single topic. Not many topics.
There is one version of a long web page that does lend itself nicely as a marketing tool, and it's been popping up more and more since 2014. It's called parallax scrolling.
The parallax technique allows the foreground and background content to scroll at different speeds. Usually there are photos moving in the background corresponding to written content in the foreground. The illusion of a visual disassociation between topics lends itself nicely when you want to explain many different topics on a single page, which is bad for SEO. The movement creates a curiosity that entices people to scroll, and therefore this technique works.
This method is best used in conjunction with a specific marketing campaign to tell a story as you scroll. You could introduce that marketing campaign on social media and then lead a person through the scrolling effect of the parallax layout on your website landing page.
Findings from a study conducted by Journal of Usability Studies showed that parallax websites can increase the amount of enjoyment when using a website, but there were no other positive usability benefits. Therefore, parallax layouts should never be a replacement for your home page just because it looks cool. The negative effects are that you muddy your SEO authority.
The bottom line of these long scrolling pages and animated parallax layouts is to use them as part of your marketing, but keep them to a single marketing campaign.