Scroll or paginate?

Having a debate with a colleague about scrolling or pagination, specifically in elearning modules.  I’m a fan of the styles of Cathy Moore or Presentation Zen – as few words as possible making as strong a message as possible. When you’re dealing with subject experts it’s a struggle but one I enjoy engaging in.  When I approached colleagues for their wish list for a new template I’m designing (for page-turners) he said what he wanted was ‘more space to display content’. When I queried it he said there was research – in Australia, he thinks – that concluded users prefer to scroll down to read information than page through many pages of short texts.  I’m wondering if this was specifically research on tutorial-style elearning or was it for reference information (in which case I agree.)

Can anyone point me to the actual research report, or to any useful writing on the subject?

2 thoughts on “Scroll or paginate?”

  1. Slightly different I know, but I attended a presentation on compliance training for an investment bank, delivered on Blackberries, where the learners reported a distinct preference for scrolling over paging.
    It’s also true to say for the web generally (see Jakob Neilson’s work) that users prefer a few pages rich with links and content to endlessly clicking through pages which are light on content.

  2. I’ll be interested to see any links to research (and I’ll look for some myself later today). I do feel, based entirely on opinion, that scrolling is preferable when it’s important to see info in context. For example, if we’re asking learners to compare X with Y, I think it’s best to have X and Y on the same page, which could require a big page. I think it’s also easier to see the structure of information when it’s all on one page with clear headings and sub-headings.
    For me the main distinction is whether the material is supposed to persuade learners (small, high impact screens) or get a lot of content into their brains (longer, scrolling screens with clear info hierarchy).
    I like a hybrid approach: use small, high-impact screens to present an interactive scenario that shows the learner how to use a job aid. The job aid usually has procedures and other details that are best on a scrolling screen.

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