Scrollable Menus Should Scroll Items Selectively

Scrollable pull-down menus enable users to access long lists of options without the need to divide the list into smaller units. For example, Firefox’s Bookmarks menu has scroll buttons at the top and bottom of the menu. Moving the mouse over the top button scrolls the menu up; moving the mouse over the bottom button scrolls the menu down. When scrollable menus contain application-defined options as well as user-defined options, the application-defined options should not scroll.

Scrollable pull-down menus enable users to access long lists of options

Firefox’s Bookmarks menu mixes user-defined bookmark options with the following Firefox-defined options:

  • Bookmark This Page
  • Subscribe to This Page…
  • Bookmark All Tabs…
  • Organise Bookmarks…

Scrolling Firefox's Bookmarks menu downwards hides useful options at the top

When users scroll the Bookmarks menu downwards to access a bookmark, these four Firefox options scroll off the top of the menu. When users re-open the Bookmarks menu, Firefox remembers the menu’s scrolled position so users must scroll the menu back up to select any of the four Firefox options. Remembering the scrolled position is a good thing—software should always remember user choices—but in this case remembering the scrolled position reduces the usability of the menu. In the image on the right, scrolling down to reveal the next two bookmarks at the bottom of the menu hides the Bookmark This Page and the Subscribe to This Page… Firefox options:

Application-defined options fixed at the top of a scrollable menu are always available

The solution is to fix the four Firefox options at the top of the menu and place the scroll-up button beneath them, as shown in the image on the left. Now when users scroll the Bookmarks menu to select a bookmark, the four Firefox options are available when users next reopen the menu.

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