Please stop designing one-page scrolling websites

Admist the rise of responsive and mobile-first design, I’ve noticed a certain new trend become popular among design-centric developers: the epic one-page scrolling website.

I totally get why designers love to make these. Having a completely different look and feel than people are used to, one-page scrolling sites often elicit that coveted “wow” response from clients. It feels so fresh and innovative! And it’s mobile friendly! Look, everything is on one page!

While they might be a slam dunk in terms of pure impression, when businesses rely on their websites to drive sales and engage and inform audiences, there are other factors to be considered. From my viewpoint, one-page scrolling websites miss the mark in just about every department.

They’re really, really, really bad for SEO

Let’s just go ahead and get this one out of the way.

The worst one-page scrolling offenders are those that literally have no pages other than the home page, save the occasional contact form. From a designer’s point of view, they’re unnecessary: all the content is broken up into screen-sized segments on the homepage, and the navigation links jump to those sections. If you can work all the content into a single one-page design, why would you need other pages?

Plenty of reasons, one of the biggest of which is: Google. #sorrynotsorry

Without separate URLs (pages) to segregate content for products and services, about and bio information, blogs, resources, contact pages and so on, there’s no way to categorize and organize this information in a way search engines can understand. When search engines index the content on websites, they look at them in the same way a one looks at library directory. They don’t see the cover illustrations – the design, images and navigational page jumps – they see the titles of the pages, period. That’s the information they use to rank the page. That means that if your website only has 1 page, Google will think your website is only about 1 thing. Even with header tags in place in the body, the website isn’t going to rank competitively for anything other than what’s identified in the lone page title. Not unless god himself is linking to your site.

There are a million other little details that make a one page scrolling website really, really poor for SEO. Fewer internal pages mean less content, fewer (or no) internal links, and less content for others to link to. These are all fundamental basics for giving your website search engine visibility, and one-page sites make them impossible.

And unless you’re using your website as a private portfolio, or landing page, or your business is truly and honestly not affected at all by a complete lack of online visibility (which does happen, on rare occasion), you really, really don’t want your business to be invisible to Google.

They’re bad for driving and converting traffic (i.e. making $$)

This is a point best illustrated, so consider these two hypothetical responses to a general service inquiry:

Hey, Jane! Here is a list of the services I offer. Let me know if you have any questions. Thanks!


Hey, Jane! There are many services I offer. Here are a few of them:
– copywriting
– digital branding packages (logo design, social media profiles, website)
– digital marketing strategy & auditing
– SEO copywriting / content writing
– analytic reporting & conversion tracking
– content strategy & marketing
– brand journalism
– search engine optimization (SEO)
– local SEO
– social media marketing
– photography (coming soon)
– WordPress or Tumblr website development
– email marketing
– social ads (Facebook, Twitter, Google Display Ads)
– online reputation management (ORM)
You can also learn more about what I do by visiting my website, and scrolling to the middle of the page, under “Services”.
If you have any questions, please feel free to email me. Thanks!

Which do you think a busy prospect is more likely to read – a list or PDF brochure sent in an email, or a unique webpage they can bookmark and explore?

Not having unique URLs for the service, product, resource or other information people most want to learn about is a big bummer for driving traffic and sales. It gives you no shorthand way to share segmented information about your business on social or in email which, back again to SEO, is a huge missed opportunity to build authoritative links that would help your site’s search engine visibility.

They’re confusing

one-page scrolling website

It’s kind of like falling down a rabbit hole.

Scrolling down one single page infinitely might be a cool design aesthetic, but it’s not all that great for finding information. The design is bad for usability, for many of the same reasons it’s bad for search engine visibility (search engine algorithms do, after all, aspire to imitate user behavior). The simple act of endlessly scrolling up and down a page isn’t the easiest on the eyes – it’s quite dizzying after a while. With so much content on one page, it’s hard to know when to stop scrolling and read; instead, users tend to get caught up in the motion of the website, as there aren’t individual pages on which they can land and focus on a specific topic.

For users, one-page scrolling websites are rather like a carnival: they look fun and exciting from the outside, but once inside you have to walk forever to get where you want to go, and before long it’s all a little overwhelming.

They make the rest of the site feel disconnected

Some scrolling homepage websites have wised up by creating a few separate internal pages for services and other info. Oftentimes, however, the lionshare of the design effort is poured into the beautiful, scrolling homepage, and internal pages are slapped with a basic template that doesn’t match the aesthetics of the homepage. The transition is jarring, and the discontinuity can cause confusion over how to navigate and find what you’re looking for. The site isn’t working as one seamless tool.

Now, I have seen some really thoughtful designs that manage to mash together the best qualities of a scrolling site and a regular site. When built on a solid information architecture that anticipates your audience, it can work.

The moral of the story is to design websites that meet audiences’ needs first and foremost – and yes, 99.9% of the time that audience includes Google. Build a sitemap and information architecture based on your audience’s behavior, with the ultimate goal of funneling traffic to convert – whatever that conversion may mean for your audience. Then mock up design skins to articulate those goals. Design should be a tool which helps articulate a website’s brand message and value proposition, not the vehicle which drives them.