Every once in a while I see something on a page and think how out of place it is; how archaic; how 1990s: for example the “Back to the Top” links one sometimes see at the bottom of a page, or worse at the bottom of every section. It got me to thinking - is there any good reason to have a "Back To the Top" link?
There are a lot of reasons to have a page split up into several smaller pages including tracking readership as users click through the article; and increasing advertising views. What possible reason could there be for keeping long articles on a single page? Outside of the expense of changing legacy files I can’t think of any. All new site designs should allow for multiple pages.
There is one reason to have a document all on one page - and that is for printing. It’s more than a little irritating to have to print out several files instead of one, and then to have extra pages for each of the footer sections. Government agencies seem to go out of their way to accomplish just that.
A counter argument could be that the link is simply an additional affordance; useful to those who want them and invisible to the rest of the population. An interesting aspect is that I’ve had many clients who’ve requested such links - even though they weren’t necessary – and not one have found the “Back to the Top” links to be annoying.
Of course one could simple press "HOME" and go back to the top of the page. But ... how many people know of this, or any other, keyboard command?
Edit: February 2, 2011
As iPads and phones are quickly gaining market share the 'Back to Top' links may come in handy as there may not be a keyboard command to quickly get the reader to the top of the file.
These devices have screen resolutions of 1024 x 600 pixels or much, much less so even average length files would be be considered to be a long page.