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Infinite scrolling is becoming a popular design choice for many types of websites that focuses on the browsing rather than search behaviour. Does the use of back to the top actually support that behaviour, and is this why the 'back to top' button is not seen as much as what one might expect?

Should this also be taken into consideration of whether there is a fixed high level navigation menu for the site or not?

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    From my personal experience, on PC's I never use this feature, since the HOME button, or dragging the scroll bar to the top does this, however, in tablets and phones, where I don't have a fast way to do this, I would like this feature, or better yet, a way to drag the scroll bar (even on non-infinite scrolling pages). – Danny Varod Jan 27 '15 at 23:13
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    related: ux.stackexchange.com/questions/12073/… - infinite scrolling can be pretty bad if not thought through – Toni Leigh Jan 28 '15 at 0:08
  • @DannyVarod: On the iPhone you can tap the status bar (e.g. the clock) to scroll to the top in most apps. – Roman Reiner Jan 29 '15 at 4:34
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No.

Most people aren't sure on this, because Neilsen's statement on the subject predates the wide-spread deployment and adoption of infinite scrolling:

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.)

My answers stems from:

  • Not many people actually want to go to the top. I have data from a client's high-traffic pages that suggests that no-one clicks the Back to the Top button - however before I share it, I'll add some code to track only people who move beyond one viewport's height and return to the top of the page.
  • Fixed headers are a better solution. As you stated in your question, fixed headers should support infinite pages to create the best (general) experience, as people who return to the top are often only seeking that top navigation.
  • There are many, many ways of getting back to the top of a page. With that said, on Android mobile devices there is no easy route to the top of the page.
  • It can mess up other factors, like the browser's history for the "back" button, screen readers, tab orders etc.

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