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We've recently started developing a web application and are having problems with responsiveness in the design. Every time I try suggest a scrollbar as a solution I am told "No, it's an application so it mustn't have any scrollbars".

For me this is crazy - especially when it comes to responsiveness - and causes a neverending number of headaches for both design and development. Because the application is browser-based I feel like we're trying to fit a square peg in a round hole here. Furthermore if I try find examples of web applications that don't have them I come up short - they all use scrollbars at some point or another.

So my question is where did this rule that web applications can't have scrollbars originate from? And can you supply me with examples where it has been achieved?

  • Do you mean vertical or horizontal scrollbars? – Tarek Oct 17 '16 at 12:52
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    Both axis. The rule we have been given is no scrollbars. At all. Ever. Because "it's an application". We do have pagination in some places... but I would argue that the scenarios where we have used pagination would have had a better user experience if it was scrollable instead. With pagination we have basically forced the user to constantly move back and forth to view items in a list. It also means that we have had to make a rule that you can have no more than six list items at a time.... and we are now coming up with more and more silly solutions simply because we can't use a scrollbar. – IOIIOOIO Oct 17 '16 at 13:14
  • So basically I want to see if we can find any examples where there is no scrolling EVER in an application. My bet is that there is no such example in existence. – IOIIOOIO Oct 17 '16 at 13:15
  • Basically when I heard this rule my first reaction was that I am completely perplexed. I've been following web design for like 10 years now and never have I come across such a principal. But I am a noob when it comes to Web Applications... so I presume there is something here that I'm unaware of. – IOIIOOIO Oct 17 '16 at 13:19
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    It also makes responsiveness a nightmare for me. There is always going to be a resolution out there that doesn't have enough height... so now what.. I must start using height based media queries and also sqaush everything as tiny as possible to make it fit? Ummm.. no. To me a design is only responsive if it's device agnostic. When a designer or developer or stakeholder asks "what screen size does it support?" the answer should be "all of them". – IOIIOOIO Oct 17 '16 at 13:21
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First, ask them where is this rule outlined. Ask them to show you the research or the institution that proposes this. When they are making claims about something they should back them up by giving you the source.

Second, you can show them this article and this video.

Generally scrolling is easier than clicking. With clicking you have to make a decision which takes a lot of cognitive resources, where with scrolling you are just exploring.

Of course you should clearly signify that the page can be scrolled so the people know that scrolling is available.

  • Thanks I'm going to use this as my accepted answer, especially thanks for the links. I'm still not sure where or how they came up with this rule but I think it may be something they read and misinterpreted. Perhaps they somewhere read that it is ideal for the user to not have to scroll in a web application and they thought it meant that you shouldn't use them or your design has failed. – IOIIOOIO Oct 18 '16 at 14:45
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    @kristiyan-lukanov I saw in the messages he refer to the inner scrollbars. – Madalina Taina Oct 18 '16 at 14:50
  • Inner scroll bars should be avoided. Especially horizontal ones. It's Ok to scroll the whole page. – Kristiyan Lukanov Oct 18 '16 at 15:19
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I think is something more about your app, because is no reason to say "it's an application so it mustn't have any scrollbars". Maybe this issue is for inner scrollbars? Some designers prefer not to use them.

Some observation:

  • In our case we have a fixed height, so basically our navbar and footer are fixed. Similar to a Bootstrap Dashboard. Unfortunately any suggestions I have put forward for a scrollbar, whether on the inner or outer parts of the app have been shut down. And yes that is the only reason I have been given that "It's an application" - hence my frustration. Anyway it seems the team is starting to see my point and we are starting to use inner scrollbars. – IOIIOOIO Oct 18 '16 at 14:41
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    @IOIIOOIO It is a difference between inner (in page scrollbars) and page scrollbars. I didn't say I think inner scrollbars are a good idea. You should try to avoid them if possible. Please see also the second link in my answer ux.stackexchange.com/questions/58499/…. – Madalina Taina Oct 18 '16 at 14:47
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Agree with you here — every application in existence has some way of scrollable viewport. Scrolling is just a way of navigating content and unless you can fit in all the content on one screen (please don't), then you should have some ability to scroll or page.

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    "every application in existence has some way of scrollable viewport", I think this is a bit of an overstatement, as you said in the answer you can fit everything on one screen which is not always a bad thing. – DasBeasto Oct 17 '16 at 14:46
  • Ok I think it's wortth arguing that there are some cases where it is possible. If you can keep it simple and fit everything you need for a particular feature or whatever then that would be the ultimate goal. I just feel that in our case (it'sa call-centre application) this isn't true and especdially considering this is an app that will have many more features added in the future. We're painting ourselves into a corner as far as I'm concerned and I'm getting frustrated that this rule has been made without any basis by someone who isn't a designer. – IOIIOOIO Oct 18 '16 at 7:44
  • Ok, but I don't think I seen an app that can fit everything on one screen and never scroll or page to a different view. – Mariusz Ciesla Oct 18 '16 at 9:58
  • Well I'm thinking of something extremely simple... like Tinder for example, there are some screens that don't require scrolling. I'm just backing up DasBeasto in the sense that maybe it isn't quite fair to say that it's impossible. It does depend on context though. With our app there are a mulititude of tasks, lists, features, graphs etc. – IOIIOOIO Oct 18 '16 at 12:01
  • But even my example of Tinder does have some areas that require scrolling. Just not on the screen you use most often. – IOIIOOIO Oct 18 '16 at 12:02

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