Is there any empirical data regarding the usability of websites that (for lack of a better word) "hijack" the (vertical) mouse scroll wheel to perform a task other than scroll up/down the page?

My specific case involves a carousel. It has been requested that when a user moves their mouse wheel up/down while their pointer is over the carousel, the result is that the carousel advances rather than scroll the page up/down. The effect in question is at least fairly popular as I was able to find a few examples (Example 1, Example 2).

My hunch is that this would be frustrating from a user experience because it's unexpected. But I can't find any definitive resource that has proven that. Perhaps it's common enough that it isn't unexpected anymore?

Is anyone aware of an user test that proved or disproved this? Or are there any industry leaders who can at least back up my primarily opinion-based hunch?


1 Answer 1


This effect is not very common really and it violates some pretty fundamental UX guidelines. The principle of least astonishment states that your interface should behave as the user expects it to based on their experiences and expectations, ie. you shouldn't hijack very common and established interaction paradigms unless you have very good reason to do so.

Take Google Maps: on their site, their map expands to fill the screen with no scrolling possible, then they hijack the scroll wheel, but once scroll bars have been removed and the user is looking at a single image of a map it feels natural to scroll with the wheel, they are almost less astonished as a result.

This is a specialist case and for their embedded product they offer a simple way to switch this off which is implemented by most sites for exactly the reason that it hijacks the expected behaviour of the mouse.

The examples

Both the examples you give are jquery plugins rather than actual sites. Developers showing off what they can do without making any sort of UX related case for what they've developed. It certainly feels slick and front end programming credentials are re-enforced, but as examples of good UX the examples offer no arguments

What does it actually add to the experience?

I would also question what is expected to be achieved by this functionality when applied to a carousel:

  • How is the UX actually improved?
  • What happens on touch screens (that's all mobile devices and a good number of laptops and desktops now too)?
  • How does the keyboard control it?
  • What's actually so bad with clickable controls? (neither of the examples attempt to answer this)

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