partial recall

a blog of ideas, links, and musings.

You Are Here


The web has been around for a fairly long time now, as technology goes, so I think it’s safe to say that there are some examples of good designs. Some of the common tricks of the trade include the ability to help a user understand context (“You are here”, wayfinding) by supplying them with a breadcrumb. If the user is completing a multi-step process, then we provide a wizard or sequence map to let them know how far they’ve progressed.

What About Orienting Yourself on a Single Page?

The recent rage in web design has been to move from organizing information on multiple pages to a single page. Scrolling be damned if you can include parallax scrolling. There are strengths and weaknesses to pagination vs. scrolling, and some designs give the user control over a multi-page view and a single-page view.

One benefit to single page consumption is that the user may be able to read the content more quickly, particularly if every new page load brings about a certain amount of latency before the new content appears. The negative, however, is that it’s harder to know how much of the content you’ve consumed. Pagination provides some sign-posting. On a one-pager, scrollbar positioning can help, but sometimes, particularly on mobile devices, scrollbars disappear so that content can be king.

Harvard Business Review Web

HBR web

The Harvard Business Review site offers a helpful design for pages that are long in content. They include a sticky top bar, a sort of toolbar, if you will. Once the user begins to scroll down an article, s/he can see their relative positioning; that is, how far they have read and how much more they need to read. I find it a helpful mechanism particularly if the user is on a mobile device.

Harvard Business Review Mobile

HBR mobile

I assumed that such a helpful device would be used on their mobile design. Wrong. For mobile users, they must endure the never-ending scroll. And at least using Google’s mobile browser, the scrollbar disappears, leaving the user with no understanding how much they’ve read. Seems to me that a similar signpost could easily be used, maybe even providing visual distinctions for natural sections or even anchors to jump to various parts of the article.