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I'm talking about links or buttons at the bottom of the page or screen simply linking to the top of the website.

Is there any data on that?
Are they used more frequently on long pages?
What about mobile?

I know that iOS has a built in function for it, but I don't know if people actually know this and I also don't know if it works on Android and WP7.

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Related: ux.stackexchange.com/questions/10341/… –  Ben Brocka Apr 27 '12 at 13:25
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me I use Ctrl + Home, on desktop that is –  AndroidHustle Apr 27 '12 at 14:28
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Sounds like it is actually interesting on mobile that does not have the iOs touch the top border –  mplungjan Apr 30 '12 at 16:07
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People whose mice don't have Logitech's free-spinning wheel are the ones who need such a link (or Home/End buttons for that matter). I can't stop singing odes to this amazing UX invention. =) –  dnbrv Apr 30 '12 at 23:28
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I've marked the other question as a duplicate of this one. The answers on that one were not beneficial to the topic (highly subjective) so it's better for this site if we can get good answers to this useful question. Having a bounty on this question and closing the other one is therefore in the best interests of ux.stackexchange. –  JonW May 1 '12 at 7:50

6 Answers 6

I've come across the same question a while ago and my company relayed on my opinion to solve the same problem, but I wasn't able to find hard data to use as a starting point.

However, I found a paper by Raluca Budiu and Jakob Nielsen from the University of Cincinnati (http://uc.edu) about Usability of Mobile Websites.

The page 79 mentions very briefly a NBA website who uses the "Back to top" link. Although I found some Nilesen's statements too selfish from the User's perspective, I believe NBA did some tests on THAT link in that specific situation drawn some attention from Jacob to mention it on his paper.

For now, I only have to relay on "trusted sources" (this paper, for instance) since I never had time to conduct an experiment focused on this kind of "navigation".

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Jakob Nilsen about "Return to Top" Links:

Yes, "return to top" can be avoided, because the exact same functionality is provided by simply dragging the scrollbar to the top of the page. It's almost always better to rely on a single, generic interaction technique so that users don't have to ponder the choice between two alternate interaction techniques for the same goal. The time it takes to make the decision is usually more than the time saved by the shortcut. (The exception would be for extremely long pages that would take forever to scroll, but such pages should be avoided in the first place.)

IMHO, users use "back to top" link very rarely because they stick to scrollbars. Users scroll to top only for returning to main menu.

The best solution is to stick the main menu to the top of the visible area and user will always see this menu.

Example you can find on Twitter Bootstrap site.

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Why do people want to get back to the top? For the navigation/search I assume.

On a mobile device the need to get back to top could be alleviated by having the sites navigation at the bottom of the page. Luke W talks about it here: http://www.alistapart.com/articles/organizing-mobile/

You could possibly extend that to the desktop, by duplicating the navigation in a fat footer type solution.

Otherwise, yes people can use the home key, and the scroll bar.. but do most people know about the home key? It depends on your audience, the folks using UX exchange probably do. Others? I'm not so sure.

In the scrollbar versus a back to top link, You could argue that the back to top link wins on the grounds of some type of GOMS analysis.

On a large page:

USING SCROLL WHEEL *scroll up *scroll up *scroll up *scroll up -top of page

USING SCROLL BAR *locate bar *click bar *drag bar up -top of page

USING BACK TO TOP LINK *locate link (ideally somewhere in between end of content and scrollbar) *click link - top of page

USING HOME KEY *locate home key *press home key -top of page

Do people use them? shrugs You could install something like crazyegg and find out pretty quickly.

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This response doesn't actually provide any answer to the OP's question. The question is pretty specific: do people use back to top links. You've not addressed this. –  JonW May 7 '12 at 8:07
    
Yeah, my bad. Hopefully it highlighted that the back to top link is negated by having the menu at the bottom of the page of a mobile specific website. In any case I'm interested to find out the answer and'll look to do a bit of research on our site - –  Martin Freer May 8 '12 at 0:24

HTML has built in support for linking to elements within HTML pages. You do not need OS support for this.

These links are useful for jumping forward to a topic (e.g. from Wikipedia contents in http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Random to the topic http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Random#Generating_randomness - notice the # in the address).

If you used the link to jump forward, the browser's back button will send you back to the previous position (and you will not need a link for that).

If you are scrolling down (or if you jumped down), you can always either scroll up or use Ctrl+Home to reach the top.

I think the inner page links are more useful for jumping between topics when a page is long
and the top of page links are more useful for when you jump for one page to the middle of another page and want to reach the top without scrolling or you did not notice that the place you want is actually the top of the current page.

If you have a page divided to a small and constant number of sections and you want easy jumping between them, then a horizontal list of link to the sections at the end of each section may make navigation easier, especially if the sections are large compared to the screen size (e.g. large page or small mobile screen).
One of these sections could be the top one.

To summarize things up, I think that the top of page link is justified only if there is an actual content section at the top of the page and should be titled according to that section, not top.

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I know that this answer does not address the data or frequency questions, but instead provides use cases. –  Danny Varod May 7 '12 at 10:59

Jakob Nilsen and others don't address the question of UIs where there are no scrollbars or Home button. This can easily be the case in mobile browsers -- iOS takes care of the omission with its "touch the top border" functionality, but Windows phones (and, it appears, Android phones) don't have anything similar. I have a WP7 phone and lament the lack of an easy way of getting back to the top of the page.

So yes: in some circumstances a Back to Top link is not only useful but necessary.

I don't know how you get data about use of a Back to Top link unless (a) there is one and (b) the site is used by mobile users who have no other option.

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I was going to post a comment, and not an answer. But, after scrolling ALL THE WAY down reading all the answers. There was no back to top link here on stackexchange. So I was to lazy, and posted my comment as an answer.

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