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I'm particularly interested in the concept of the "back to the top" functionality that a lot of sites still have. I'm confused by this, ux wise, especially when it comes into play with a sticky navigation present.

Is there a reason why this is still a thing?

  • I'm talking about the "button" that says "back to the top." And when clicked, the site will scroll you to the top. – Majo0od Mar 8 '15 at 17:49
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Short answer :

They should no longer be used!


Long answer:

Just attempting to understand the rationale here: When sticky navigation is available and selected menu item is highlighted the user has no means by which to know that clicking it again will take them to the top (depends on how familiar users are with sticky menus). In this particular situation “back to the top” is only a different way to achieve the same result! Only it’s more explicit so the user is more certain that they will remain on the page.

To an extent, this issue is very similar to using Home button vs Logo link

So users hold the key here, if they are sufficiently familar with the pattern then there is no need for "back to the top" link but if they are not then erring on the side of caution some sites chose to keep it.

That being said, the use of "back to the top" link is mainly intended to deal with long pages which should be avoided in the first place!

Some usability experts and even the Yoda of usability, Jakob Nielsen, reject the “top” link unanimously. According to them, in-page links should be avoided at all because the scroll bar suffices completely, and additional options can be irritating and unnecessary.

Aside from the above, there is actually a long list of reasons why "back to the top" links should not be used, starting with accessibility :

“Back to Top” links also disturb the use of speech-based user agents. Would you like to listen to a page, using a speech synthesizer, if there were an abrupt note like “link: back to top” e.g. after each paragraph? Such user agents often have a link reading mode where only links are spoken, in sequential order.

Source: “Back to Top” links considered harmful

Other reasons include (Paraphrasing):

  • Interference with keyboard navigation utilised by users who have motoric disabilities.
  • Distracts users from focusing on content
  • Pollutes browsing history by creating duplicates.
  • Mimics an existing functionality within browsers.

Source: “Back to Top” links considered harmful

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I'am designing a web application, which has a sticky menu and "back to the top" link, so in first time I was against using this nasty statement. It was remind me blog or ..., but finally after researching I come to agree especially in web applications that have different tools in sections, it's so important to use it( don't use it in normal website).WHY? let me explain; it's help people who use assistive technology to find their way on net , when screen readers goes down the pages they can't come up again ,for example if a person with disability use this application and in the middle of some thing she changes her mind, she can't go back to the top to use other option in menu.So this is not like Home button vs Logo link at all. it's important based on WCAG to all people have access to every aspect of design.

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  • This conflicts with Okavango's answer stating that "back to the top" is harmful for screen readers. – user31143 Mar 9 '15 at 15:34
  • As I said in some web application is critical but in normal website, it shouldn't be use – Amitis Mar 10 '15 at 0:22
  • What is considered a "normal website" to you? – Majo0od Mar 10 '15 at 19:22
  • normal web is a web site with small amount of data, if you go to web accessibility initiative w3.org/WAI/eval/considerations.html, you will understand they use link to top as well, then it's not against accessibility guideline. because they provide this guideline. – Amitis Mar 11 '15 at 6:02

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