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Plone: Right Columns and Scrolling

Does the use of a right column make users scroll significantly more?

The Question

A frequent question when using a right column in Plone is:

There's only one or two items!  Won't that 'white space' make my users have to scroll?

The short answer is, "Not as much as you'd think!"

Of course, making the page longer results in users having to scroll.  But, we need to quantify "how much" to answer this question.

The Experiment

I used a medium/long length page  as a baseline to determine how many additional 'scrolls' a right column will add to the page length.

Screenshots

Without Right Column With Right Column
Factsheet Without Right Column Factsheet With Right Column
Height: 2173 pixels Height: 2613 pixels

Calculations

The difference in height between the "with right column" and "without right column" is 440 pixels in this case.

Through Google Analytics, I determined that 95% of our users have a screen resolution of 1024x768 pixels or greater.  The approximate vertical viewing area for browser in that resolution is 585px (subtracting out toolbars, address bars, etc.).

Conclusion

Therefore, adding a right column increases the length of this page by approximately 3/4 of a 'scroll' (440px/585px).  This is a relatively small increase, considering the page was over 3.5 'scrolls' to begin with.

The benefit of being able to place important supplemental information (related content, quick links, hot topics, etc.) in a prominent location outweighs the minimal amount of additional scrolling for the user.