Scrolling to Read Text

Many people cannot effectively read text that requires horizontal scrolling, or scrolling up to get from one column to the next. People with low vision, dyslexia, and others who increase text size to make it readable (as introduced in Text Customization for Readability) often have to deal with text that requires scrolling.

Sometimes when text size is increased — especially with zoom functionality, lines of text go beyond the visible window (or viewport) and people have to scroll back and forth horizontally to read the text. Sometimes when text is increase that is in set columns — such as newsletters and scientific papers in PDF, people have to scroll up several times to get from the bottom of one column to the top of the next column.

For most people (even without disabilities) it is harder to read when they have to scroll horizontally or between columns to read sentences. For some people with disabilities, it is impossible to adequately read and comprehend text that requires such scrolling. Finding and activating scrollbars, then finding the next words in the sentence requires more effort. This causes a lose of reading flow and degrades comprehension, especially for people who have general difficulties understanding written text.

Below are perspectives on the importance of not having to scroll to read text.

User Research Survey Data

The following is from the User Research Survey on Changing Text Display for Easier Reading. Comments are filtered for relevance and roughly grouped; they are not edited. There is no meaning to the numbering of the comments; they are numbered only to make it easier to refer to a specific comment.

Horizontal scrolling for others


How important is it to be able to change the following:...
No horizontal scrolling
(change it so that they do not have to scroll to the right to read a line of text; instead, text wraps to the next line without requiring scrolling; sometimes called rewrap)

Answers: 196

Importance of no scrolling - others:
Answer Options Response
Very important 65%
Important 22%
Slightly important 7%
Not at all important 1%
I don't know 4%


  1. The biggest complaint about enlarged font is that they have to do so much scrolling. People who are prone to motion sickness, can't tolerate the scrolling.
  2. People who use screen magnification I've user-tested sites with have been very much hindered by having to horizontally scroll in magnified views
  3. The need to scroll horizontally makes it very difficult to keep track of text.
  4. Probably right up there with colour as a barrier when scrolling is overdone. Much worse nowadays given mobile devices.
  5. Horizontal scrolling is hard on magnification users and confusing for other groups
  6. Nobody wants to do any horizontal scrolling. It takes too much time. If someone is zooming in on the page it becomes more difficult because the reader will have to go to the bottom of the page, scroll right or left and then have to scroll up to find where they were.
  7. I should note that if you are reading a document, and you increase the font on the page, if the focus moves away from what you are reading with horizontal scrolling (because the text size is causing the words to move left or right off the visible area) , it is very distracting.
  8. Horrid, horrid, horrid. I detest it. Means web pager manager lacked training or common sense, for starters!
  9. for continuity and flow when reading for comprehension and content
  10. Especially for magnifier users
  11. This seems like one of those things that's important for everybody. I can't imagine anyone wanting to HAVE to scroll to read a line of text.
  12. Although they may be able to read fine without horizontal scrolling, it is certainly more cumbersome and may contribute to fatigue.
  13. This varies by consumer, but is an issue for many.
  14. Very Important
  15. Among people that I know who use extreme zoom levels, they have learned how to deal with horizontal scrolling. For these users, it's wonderful for readability when they can avoid horizontal scrolling, but they have developed skills to deal with horizontal scroll because it is so prevalent.
    But for people who need just a little bit of zoom, I suspect that horizontal scrolling is the number one reason they give up, revert to non-zoom (maybe permanently), and kill a lot of trees by printing web sites and emails.
  16. This is why the electronic readers are so wonderful...they automatically adjust!

Horizontal scrolling for you


How important is it to be able to change the following:...
No horizontal scrolling
(change it so you do not have to scroll to the right to read a line of text; instead, text wraps to the next line without requiring scrolling; sometimes called rewrap)

Answers: 205

Importance of no scrolling for you:
Answer Options Response
Very important 53%
Important 27%
Slightly important 9%
Not at all important 5%
I don't know 6%


  1. I can't do this very easily so i usually cut and paste it so I don't have to.
  2. Having to scroll is very distracting at times, especially to someone who is dyslexic and also has MD. I lose the line, or concentrate on getting the cursor on the scroll and lose the line. I have one good eye to read with...and I hate having to go back and find myself !
  3. That's just awful! Don't do it!!! I give up, disgusted with the author/web content person's poor design or plannning!
  4. If I have to scroll right and left as well as up and down, I won't read the page.
  5. It's tedious to have to scroll for every line and I generally quit.
  6. I hate reading when I have to scroll right or left.
  7. If I constantly be moving the document to read, I will either lose my place or make harder to understand.
  8. If lots of text I tend to lose my place if I have to scroll left & right.
  9. prevents confusion and missed items
  10. Super important. Horizontal scrolling gets very annoying.
  11. This is a problem, if my vision gets worse I'll need to magnify or zoom more and scroll more. It is slower and harder to do for ease of reading.
  12. Mainly on a frustration perspective. I can do it but hate it with a passion.
  13. Yes! This is really important - I *hate* having to scroll left and right and left and right constantly :)
  14. Text wrapping is significantly better than horizontal scrolling.
  15. otherwise it is disorienting.
  16. I hate when I'm reading something, and I have to go to the bottom of the page in order to find the scrolling arrows. Sometimes, using the arrow keys doesn't work, and it's difficult to navigate this task and maintain my place in the text. If I'm interpreting this correctly, I think it would be very important to have the choice, especially for those who are using other accessibility programs.
  17. It slows me down having to scroll to the right and then to the left in order to read the text which is "covered".
  18. I hate right scrolling whiplash
  19. especially when browsing on my mobile. It is a pain!
  20. Scrolling is too confusing
  21. Very important and very dependent on context for appropriate application to improve ease of use rather than degrading it.
  22. Makes it easier to read
  23. The smaller the device, the more important this is.
  24. older people..some..prefer no scrolling at al
  25. Critical. See above.

Reflow to avoid scrolling from the bottom of one column to the top of the next column


How important is it to be able to change the following:...
Text in one continuous block, instead of in multiple columns
(change it so that [they/you] do not have to go from the bottom of one column up to the top of another column to read text; e.g., changing text from 3 columns to 1 column; sometimes called reflow)

Note: Overall responses are not included here because several respondents answered based on different aspects of columns, such as line length: "I like it when the text is in colems because I don't have a big long line to read. Instead the lines are short." and "My eyes get tired and i lose my place if the text is not broken up". The comments below illustrate that reflow from multiple columns into one is important for some users.


  1. I loose track of what is being said by time I scroll back to top
  2. I get frustrated sometimes as I lose my place now when I am reading and have to jump columns.
  3. I find it easier to read wide blocks of text, rather than columns. This minimizes the visual return which is one of the most difficult visual tasks for me.
  4. Columns often get tricky if you try enlarging the text size. One column makes things much easier and also means that you don't need to keep jumping from one place to another. Also if I am reading something long, it's so much easier to have the text displayed large enough to read without magnification, so that it wraps to screen properly - whereas with a screen magnifier you invariably have to keep moving the focus left to right to left to right.
  5. If newsletter is displayed in columns like that then I often give up on reading it if I can't change it
  6. With my MD it is easier to follow in one column. With my dyslexia, on the computer, I sometimes have trouble getting back up to the other column..
  7. It's extremely irritating to have to scroll the document up/down sideways (when reading on a mobile/tab). Multicolumn is a concept carried forward from the paper days
  8. I hate multiple column e-newsletters!
  9. With field defects it's hard to follow text S you describe.
  10. This would be nice but I usually don't know how to do it
  11. I think this is obvious as a usability issue one does not want to scroll up and down the page due to multiple columns.
  12. As a general rule, I believe that using multiple columns on a website - or any document used online - is poor design. This requires the user to scroll up and down repeatedly. This is even more challenging if the user is editing the document - for example, in Microsoft Word.
  13. Could be important, as scrolling down to the bottom, you lose your train of thought by the time to scroll back to the top.
  14. Some people will miss the other columns
  15. I know that some people I work with find columns confusing and/or distracting.
  16. Text in more columns is confusing.
  17. prevents confusion
  18. Flowing text is often an issue - particularly semantically where a phrase or sentence is split
  19. reflow helps as much magnified text needs all the screen
  20. My clients hate columns.
  21. Depending on viewing conditions this can be very important (preventing scrolling, having a clear expectation of the flow, not missing content)
  22. Especially bad if the user ends up having to constantly scroll up and down. I have observed that users often lose their place easily in this situation.

See Also

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