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I often get these complain from my management team when i design long pages for them. I cant cut on information only because i have to fit in it one page. Some really basic users do not know if they should scroll down for call to action. Is it a good idea to show the scrollbar so they know they have to scroll down the page?

  • Isn't that more down to the OS / browser than the website itself? – JonW Feb 12 '15 at 10:22
  • Browsers dont show by default so i am talking about customized scroll bars – Guru Munishwar Feb 12 '15 at 10:27
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    I don't think I have ever seen a mobile website with a custom page scrollbar. Not to say they don't exist, just that I don't recall seeing one. Does such a thing exist? – JonW Feb 12 '15 at 10:29
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    I think you have a bit of an XY problem here. The problem you're trying to solve isn't necessarily related to a scrollbar - you're trying to get across to the end user that the page can be scrolled. A scrollbar may be an option, but don't focus on that, focus on the main problem itself. – JonW Feb 12 '15 at 11:03
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    If your boss is wanting you to do it I would probably just do it, but maybe an alternative would have a small bar at the bottom that says "scroll for more information" (or whatever theyd scroll for) that fades away when they start scrolling. – DasBeasto Feb 12 '15 at 22:07
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Scrollbars provide three real benefits:

1. Scrolling

Although this was their initial primary purpose, it was also never the only way to scroll, as users could use page up / page down or spacebar / shift + spacebar. it has largely become obsolete for users with mouse wheels, or some touch scrolling.

2. Position

Scrollbars give an indication of where in the total document you are. If you've been reading a long time, and you see a tiny scrollbar near the top of the page, you have a good idea just how much more time you'll need to finish.

3. Quick movement

The ability to drag a scrollbar up or down gives an easy way to move quickly through long documents.


Mobile comparison

When it comes to using mobile touch devices, it's only the scrolling and to an extent quick movement that are replaced by touch scrolling. You can flick to scroll quickly, but if you have a really long document, this can be tedious.

Mobile scrolling however often doesn't give any indication of where you are in a document.

Conclusion

So if your mobile website shows lots of extremely long content, and it's important for your primary use case to be able to see how far a reader is through the content, then a scrollbar may be a good idea.

However, for most cases, a scrollbar on a mobile website will be an unnecessary use of space; a visual distraction; and will provide no real benefit. So it's my suggestion that unless you have a strong use case argument in their favour, it's best to leave them out.

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The answer to your primary question is: no, you should not force or emulate a scroll bar on mobile devices.

Explanation

Mobile platforms already have a scroll bar in the interface. However, it becomes visible only when a user is scrolling. If you introduce an element that nobody else is using, you are creating an expectation for users to see this element throughout your own product and in products of others. If a pattern hasn't been introduced into a platform, it's not needed.

This is especially important when you are dealing with users who aren't as familiar with mobile devices as you would expect them. If your product is one of their first experiences with a platform (be it a particular OS, form factor, or just a touch-based interface), it is your duty to not only make the introduction smooth but also set the right expectations for their future experiences. This is where the following recommendations come into play.

Since it's pretty clear that your users aren't used to touch screens, you need to create a simple first time UX, i.e. some kind of an introduction that quickly explains how to scroll. This can be as simple as an overlay saying, "Touch the screen and slide your finger up to see the rest of the form. Touch and slide your finger up to go back." and a "Dismiss" button. Here're a few articles on FTU patterns & guidelines:

  1. Examining First Time Use and the use of the guided tour design pattern
  2. DESIGNING FIRST RUN EXPERIENCES TO DELIGHT USERS
  3. Patterns for new user experiences

The second part of my recommendation is to perform heuristic evaluation of your design's affordance for scrolling. It may be the case that your screens lack the affordance for scrolling and your users get confused, as a result. There was a good question on UX.SE a few years back on what affords scrolling. And here's a list of design patterns for horizontal scrolling that you can adapt properly for vertical.

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Oh no, not this again.

Users scroll.

I've always had this discussion with people when they ask: "If we hide information underneath the fold, will they know that there is something there?"

What is the first thing that people do when they land on a page? They try to discover, and one way they do that is by scrolling. If a user cannot scroll, the page will simply not allow them to, and if they can, they will move.

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    Indeed, not a single mobile user I have ever seen in a test has stared blankly at a mobile screen and not tried to scroll / explore. – msanford Feb 18 '15 at 2:21
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I'd say no, as you are already compromised by screensize and content you have to present. Mobile OS seems to understand that by choosing to not implement the scroll bar in their browser.

A solution to your problem could be anchors within your content and a scroll script to smooth it out so you won't be dealing with more/other confusion.

Hope it helps. Good luck.

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