When developing content for a corporate Intranet it can be difficult to avoid creating long scrolling content pages. Dividing the content into a number of smaller pages doesn't always work because it can make users pogo-stick through a number of pages to find the information they need.
Sometime a page author will add jump links to the top of the page so users can jump to the section they need. Studies by User Interface Engineering found that users are sometimes confused by these links. The links add to the length of the page and increases visual complexity.
UIE also found that users don't mind scrolling pages as long as they think the information they want is on the page. But in a long scrolling page it is sometime difficult to communicate the page content within the initial viewable area.
More recent eye tracking studies by Software Usability Research Laboratory, Jackob Nielsen, and Google seem to show that users spend most of their time looking at the top portion of the page and not much time scrolling or looking at the content below the fold. All these studies have found that people tend to look at web pages in a F pattern were the left side and top of the page get the most views as illustrated in this heat map image.
According to Jakob Nielsen 79% of web users scan the content of pages rather than read the entire page.
Given this understanding of how people look at web pages, it would seem that an optimal design would be one where:
- the keywords that best communicate the content of the page appear on the left side.
- users did not need to scroll the page.
- the content could be quickly scanned.
This example illustrates a design of a text only content page that could meet this criteria. It uses a jQuery function similar to the one used for the usable FAQ design. The design lets authors enter content in a simple HTML table where one column contains the section titles with keywords that contain the scent of information for the content. The content for each section is then entered in the next column. This lets the author focus on the content and not be bother with layout or entering jump links. Using a hover over to display the content for each section lets a person quickly scan the content to find what they need. Given the content and probably usage, the hover over could easily be replace with a click activation.