Thank you Jakob 13 Jul 2005

27 comments Latest by chucky

Thank you Jakob for taking on homemade scrollbars — few things annoy me (and people I’ve watched use the web) than custom “designed” scrollbars.

27 comments so far (Jump to latest)

pwb 14 Jul 05

I hate, hate, hate, hate homemade scroll bars even more than horizontal scroll bars.

Web pages should be 800 pixels wide max and 600-640 is better.

Paul 14 Jul 05

I wouldn’t mind custom scroll bars, but they rarely work with the scroll wheel on my mouse and that’s something that will usually cause me to leave the site without looking any further.

iLoveSEO 14 Jul 05

I like custom scrool bars if they are done with good taste

kmilden 14 Jul 05

*600-640 is better*

800 I agree, but if you look at browser stats 80% are 1024 and above. Cnet’s new site is optimized for 1024 and good web design should scale (within in reason Amazon goes a bit to far with it). 800 I will agree with, but 640x480 is very out dated statement.

Charles M. Gerungan 14 Jul 05

Although my screen width is 1200-something, I never have my browser full-width. I love sites that scale well to (sometimes even less than) 800 pixels.

JohnO 14 Jul 05

OK… gotta stick my head up and say something. He didn’t say “custom scroll bars are evil”. He said “evil custom scroll bars are evil”. Duh.

I have a very good reason to use a custom scrollbar:
When you want all cross-platform browsers to use the same visual style. If you have a warm-color—dominant website, and someone has aqua-blue Mac scrollbars, it looks like crap. If you need to save space, and someone has XP scrollbars, it looks like crap.

Once again, the general usability principle holds true:
Something is usable if the widget behaves in accordance with the user’s expectations. If they have absolutely no clue what the widget does, you should re-design it.

NotJohnO 14 Jul 05

If you think you ever have a good reason to use a custom scroll bar, your priorities are shot. I don’t care what Jakob said (I don’t bother reading his trite, state-the-obvious articles) but I read SvN, and it’s discouraging to hear ANYONE from what I believe to be a relatively clear-thinking group, defending custom scroll bars. Much like the desktop, the menu bar, the window chrome, etc. a USER blocks out the scroll bar while looking at your site. So the aqua bar does not make it into their mental picture of your site.

Face it, if you use custom scroll bars, you’re as lame as the people that pop a fixed size window for their site to load into.

XP scroll bars too wide?!? What the heck are you designing, how many pixels are you saving by baking your own? This whole debate is ridiculous, usually I’m open to hearing both sides of an argument, but if you use custom scroll bars, you’re just wrong. You lose. It’s a dumb thing to waste your energy (and code) on.

Matthew Oliphant 14 Jul 05

I didn’t make it past the first two bullets.

Offer a scrollbar if a page has scrolling content. Don’t rely on auto-scrolling, which people might not notice.

Hide scrollbars if all content is visible. If people see a scrollbar, they assume there’s additional content and will be frustrated if they can’t scroll.

If I am missing something here, please explain it to me.


Doesn’t auto-scroll mean a scroll bar displays when there is content available to scroll to? So in that case, if there was content available, a scroll bar would be too? And if there wasn’t, then no scroll bar?

Mark 14 Jul 05

Matthew -

I think in this case, Jakob is referring to “auto-scrolling” to be those applications which use actionscript or javascript to scroll content when the mouse is in an area, rather than depending on a scrolbar at all.

Also, there are some sites (usually built in Flash) where there is a scrollbar displayed but not enough information (yet) to require a scrollbar. Jakob’s suggesting to hide it until there’s enough info to require it.

~bc 14 Jul 05

I’m surprised Jakob was so accepting of those custom scroll bars. His examples of “good” custom scroll bars were pretty heinous in my opinion. I can’t remember meeting a flash scroll bar I liked. Not saying it can’t be done, but I agree… the browser scroll bars are part of the user’s system, and not a extension of your brand. Leave it be.

Paul 14 Jul 05

I guess the flip question is, is there ever a good time for a custom scrollbar? I’m thinking moreso on a web page with IE, and its “helpful” scrollbar-coloring features.

I honestly can’t think of one, but I’m curious if there are any solid reasons out there.

yuck 14 Jul 05

Speaking of clarity what’s up with the jargon in the ruby on rails right-side link:
For developers we present our open-source web application framework that’s fueling the Web 2.0 revolution


pwb 14 Jul 05

Finally I agree with Darrell. Screen resolution has little to do with what is a good width for web pages. Even for users browsing in full screen mode, 1024 is much to wide for your typical web page. Don’t forget 1) those of us that do not browse full screen, 2) those of us with smaller displays and 3) those of us who browse, for example, in one panel in a feed reader.

And I agree with those undcertain if it is *ever* appropriate to use custom scroll bars.

Nick 14 Jul 05

“Speaking of clarity what�s up with the jargon in the ruby on rails right-side link:
‘For developers we present our open-source web application framework that�s fueling the Web 2.0 revolution’”

I think the key to that satement is the first two words… “For developers.” The target market will most likely understand the statement. But I do agree that all this buzzword pimping lately is a little 1999.

Kyle 14 Jul 05

I saw that article a day or so ago and instantly dismissed it once Jakob started discussing good and bad custom scroll bars.

I hate custom scroll bars. There is no good in them, in my opinion, which out weighs the bad. The first thought that usually comes to mind is that I’m dealing with flash site, which again, I can’t stand.

Scott 14 Jul 05

I hate custom scrollbars because they usually don’t implement all the various ways of interaction that normal ones do. In particular, usually you can’t click and drag, which is how I usually scroll. So I end up holding down my mouse button on the down arrow as the text scrolls way too slowly — and then I give up. Gg useability.

Michael Spina 14 Jul 05

Good stuff.

Just leave scrollbars to the OS. Mac users won’t notice contrasting color Aqua widgets because these are basically invisible because they’re so common.

Plus, (at least on Mac) you have the option of putting your arrows where you want them, either one at each end or both at the bottom. Custom scrollbars won’t take this into consideration.

StillNotJohnO 14 Jul 05

Not to mention, anyone on OS X worth their salt has the blue scrollbars turned off and is using the more neutral gray pallette.

Aqua. Phhpth.

When can I get an OS X UI that looks like Final Cut Pro 3? That’s where the action is.

JohnO 14 Jul 05

Well, to my anti-aliases - and just to make sure my absolute non-bias to my argument, I’ve never made a custom scrollbar - I’m sticking with “evil custom scrollbars are evil”, and not “custom scrollbars are evil”.

To my last commenter, “anyone worth their salt” might include this community, but might not include the rest of Apple users, not to mention those Apple users who don’t run OSX (God forbid).

Furthermore, in IE you can style the scrollbar, not in Firefox (nor Safari, I think). Essentially, the scrollbar is a design limitation. If one wants to elminate limitations, they are perfectly allowed(that is practically a Designer’s job, eliminating limitations sufficient to completing a goal, whether it be on the web, print, architecture, or engineering…).

sloan 14 Jul 05

Reinventing the wheel for scrollbars can be misleading to users in terms of functionality. If you implement a custom scrollbar with the same basic visual language and all the functionality of a system bar, then there is no harm is there? But it is far and few between the good implementations and necessary implementations of custom scrollbars.

Honestly, this is a pretty small sample of usability issues on the web. Hell, lets start with text you can actually read and go from there. In the end, if you are kick ass interaction designer you should have the freedom to customize your design out the wazoo, but what you’ll find is a lot of people designing beyond their competence… which is the biggest issue for the web… dumb custom scrollbars is just one of the symptoms.

Dan Boland 14 Jul 05

Not to mention, anyone on OS X worth their salt has the blue scrollbars turned off and is using the more neutral gray pallette.

I still have the blue scrollbars because it doesn’t matter. Am I “worth my salt?”

Darrel 14 Jul 05

you�ll find is a lot of people designing beyond their competence

Nice quote. I’ll have to remember that one. Seems to be the cause of a lot of usability issues.

Scott Meinzer 15 Jul 05

What are everyone’s thought on custom scrollbars in Dashboard widgets on OS X Tiger (where there are alot of them). They offer all the interactivity that standard os x scrollbars do (for the most part). And IMO they look way better then an aqua scrollbar would look thrown in there.

Fred 15 Jul 05

“and people I’ve watched use the web”

wow, that sounds exciting.

chucky 15 Jan 06

I don’t agree the custom scroll bars are evil. It is more the designer who makes them evil.

IMO, scrollbars should FIRST be functional and work as the system scrollbars. Changing the scrollbar of the browser should NOT be allowed as it is part of the OS, HOWEVER, Scrollbars in the middle of the webpage should be changed to suit the page AS LONG AS it still is completely functional.

IE can do this which I think allows the designer more fredom to create.
FIREFOX cannot do this which I think is one reseaon I still use IE.

The scrollbar is part of the webpage so why should we be able to alter the size and look, however altering the functionality is something designers shouldn’t be allowed to touch.