Scroll Hijacking or ‘Scrolljacking’ as it’s sometimes known by designers and developers, is a design choice that allows websites to control how you scroll down a web page. We’ve all experienced one of these websites at some point in time, the ones that essentially steal your browser and alter the way it functions, for example changing the scroll to move automatically or run animations instead of scrolling down a page.
While some designers seem to love it and we’ll admit it can look rather pretty on occasion, when it comes to the actual practicality of Scroll Hijacking, honestly, it’s quite possibly the most frustrating web design trend of recent years.
Now personally, when I arrive on a web page, I want to scroll down at my own pace, I like to explore a website and its content in my own time, reading through it in a way that makes sense to myself. What I don’t want is a website messing with my scroll rate, not do I need to be told to “keep scrolling.”
I’m a huge fan of an immersive experience online, these experiences can be fun and provide both an engaging and informative experience, helping brands develop their own unique style and tone. However these experiences shouldn’t encroach on the user experience, especially not for the sake of telling the narrative.
User experience (UX) and usability concepts are two of the most significant topics in modern web design, where pretty graphics and slick animations are often perfect in design, a website needs to function in a manner than works for users.
So What’s The Big Deal With Scrolljacking?
Scrolljacking alters the fundamentals of how scrolling works, people expect to scroll their mouse and have the page react a certain way. Messing with someone’s scrolling is somewhat similar to driving your car, pressing the horn but instead of honking, you wipers switch one. Not only is this disjointing and frustrating for users, it can also feel too invasive. The idea of an outside source messing around with how your page and mouse works, as though the designer or website owners know best, isn’t something many people aren’t going to be happy about, especially in an age when technology and digital media are seen as becoming too intrusive.
Should We Avoid Scroll Hijacking?
From a usability perspective scrolljacking isn’t recommended, if you’re building a site that focuses on design and looking slick rather than focusing on how visitors actually use the website, then go ahead, hijack away. But what’s the point in a website looking good if it doesn’t work in a way that users enjoy?
Websites are built to benefit users, not hinder their experience! Traditional scrolling is expected by pretty much everyone who uses the internet and people expect their computers and browser to work in a way which they are used to.
While there are examples of decent scroll experiences that do include scrolljacking, they’re quite uncommon. Overall if you’re thinking of including autoscrolling or messing with your website scrolling don’t (!) You might think it’s making things more simple, but it’s going to be much simpler to provide a standard scrolling option, that your users know and enjoy!