How to Improve Scroll Performance with Passive Event Listeners

27 Jun 2024 | 6 min read
How to Improve Scroll Performance with Passive Event Listeners

Understanding Scroll Performance

Scroll performance refers to how smoothly and quickly a webpage responds to a user’s scrolling. When you scroll through a website, the browser has to update the content on the screen constantly. If the browser can’t keep up, you’ll notice delays or jerky movements, making the website slow and unresponsive.

Why Scroll Performance Matters

Good scroll performance is crucial because it directly affects how users experience your website. When a website scrolls smoothly, it feels more polished and professional. On the other hand, poor scroll performance can frustrate users and may even drive them away from your site.

Common Causes of Poor Scroll Performance

Several factors can cause poor scroll performance:

Heavy JavaScript Execution: When your webpage has a lot of JavaScript running, it can slow down scrolling.

Large Images and Media Files: Big files take longer to load and render, affecting scroll speed.

Too Many Event Listeners: Adding multiple event listeners, especially for scroll events, can create lag.

CSS and Rendering Issues: Complex CSS or poorly optimized rendering can also contribute to slow scrolling.

Measuring Scroll Performance

You can use tools like Google Lighthouse or browser developer tools to understand scroll performance. These tools help you identify what is slowing down your page and give you suggestions for improving it.

What Are Passive Event Listeners?

Passive event listeners are a way to tell the browser that an event listener won’t call the preventDefault() method. This small change can significantly impact your website’s performance, especially regarding scrolling.

How Event Listeners Work

When you add an event listener to a webpage, it waits for a specific event, such as a user scrolling, clicking, or typing. For example, add a scroll event listener if you want something to happen when the user scrolls.


window.addEventListener('scroll', function() {

// Your Code here


The Problem with Regular Event Listeners

By default, the browser doesn’t know if your event listener will call preventDefault(). This method stops the default action associated with the event. For a scroll event, the default action is scrolling the page. The browser has to wait to see if preventDefault() is called before it can continue scrolling smoothly, which can make scrolling feel slow and laggy.

How Passive Event Listeners Help

When you mark an event listener as passive, you tell the browser you won’t call preventDefault(). This allows the browser to continue scrolling smoothly without waiting.

Here’s how you add a passive event listener:


window.addEventListener('scroll', function() {

// Your Code here

}, { passive: true });

By adding { passive: true }, you improve the performance of your scroll events.

Benefits of Passive Event Listeners

Smoother Scrolling: The browser doesn’t need to wait, so scrolling feels smooth and responsive.

Better User Experience: Users enjoy a more seamless interaction with your site.

Improved Performance: Less delay in handling events makes the site faster.

How Passive Event Listeners Improve Scroll Performance

Passive event listeners make your website’s scroll performance smoother and faster. They tell the browser that your event listener will not stop the default scroll action, allowing the browser to handle scrolling more efficiently.

The Problem with Default Event Listeners

When you add a scroll event listener, the browser doesn’t know if you’ll use preventDefault(). This method stops the browser’s default behavior, like scrolling. Because of this, the browser waits to see if you call preventDefault(). This wait can cause delays and make scrolling feel jerky.

How Passive Event Listeners Work

With passive event listeners, you tell the browser upfront that you won’t call preventDefault(). This lets the browser continue scrolling without waiting, which makes the scroll smoother.

Here’s how you use a passive event listener:


window.addEventListener('scroll', function() {

// Your Code here

}, { passive: true });

The { passive: actual} part tells the browser it’s safe to keep scrolling without waiting.

Benefits of Using Passive Event Listeners

Smoother Scrolling: The browser doesn’t pause to check for preventDefault(), so scrolling stays smooth.

Better User Experience: Users get a more seamless and responsive interaction with your site.

Improved Performance: The site responds faster because the browser can handle scroll events more efficiently.

Implementing Passive Event Listeners

Adding passive event listeners to your website is a simple way to improve scroll performance. Here’s how you can do it step by step.

Identify the Event: Decide which events you want to make passive. Typical events include scroll, touch start, touch move, and wheel.

Add the Event Listener: Use addEventListener to attach your event listener to an element. Include the { passive: proper} option to make it passive.

Here’s an example of a scroll event:


window.addEventListener('scroll', function() {

// Your scroll event handler code

}, { passive: true });

Test Your Changes: After adding the passive event listener, test your website to ensure it works correctly and the scrolling feels smooth.

Example Code

Imagine you want to improve scroll performance on a div with the ID content. Here’s how you would do it:


document.addEventListener('DOMContentLoaded', function() {

var content = document.getElementById('content');

content.addEventListener('scroll', function() {

//Code to run when the user scrolls

}, { passive: true });


This Code waits until the DOM is fully loaded, then attaches a passive scroll event listener to the content div.

Best Practices

Use Passive Listeners for Non-Blocking Events: Apply passive listeners to events where you don’t need to call preventDefault(). This includes most scroll and touch events.

Test Thoroughly: Ensure that adding passive listeners doesn’t break any functionality on your site. Sometimes, you might need preventDefault() for specific cases.

Combine with Other Optimizations: Passive event listeners are one part of improving performance. Combine them with other techniques like async script loading and lazy loading images for the best results.

Additional Tips for Enhancing Scroll Performance

Improving scroll performance goes beyond using passive event listeners. Here are more tips for making your website scroll smoothly and quickly.

Use Asynchronous and Deferred Loading

Load JavaScript files asynchronously or defer them. This prevents scripts from blocking the initial page 


  • Async: The script loads while the page continues to render.
  • Defer: The script loads after the page finishes rendering.



<script src="example.js" async></script>

<script src="example.js" defer></script>

Optimize Images and Media

Large images and media files can slow down your site. Optimize them to improve loading times and scroll performance.

  • Compress Images: Use tools to reduce image file sizes.
  • Use Proper Formats: Choose formats like WebP for better compression.
  • Lazy Load: Load images only when they come into the viewport.



<img src="image.jpg" loading="lazy" alt="Description">

Minimize JavaScript and CSS

Remove unnecessary JavaScript and CSS. Minify the files to reduce their size, making them load faster.

  • Minification: Use tools to remove whitespace and comments from your Code.
  • Bundling: Combine multiple files into one to reduce the number of requests.

Reduce the Number of Event Listeners

Too many event listeners can slow down your site. Only use the necessary ones and remove them when they’re no longer needed.



function handle scroll() {

// Your Code here


window.addEventListener('scroll', handle scroll);

// Remove the event listener when a window is not needed

.removeEventListener('scroll,' handle scroll);

Avoid Complex Layouts

Complex layouts can make rendering slower. Simplify your CSS and avoid heavy calculations during scroll events.

  • Use Simple Styles: Keep your CSS clean and straightforward.
  • Avoid Heavy Calculations: Don’t perform complex tasks inside scroll event handlers.

In conclusion, improving scroll performance with passive event listeners is a straightforward yet powerful technique to enhance user experience on your website. By simply adding the passive: true option to your event listeners, you can prevent unnecessary delays and ensure smoother, more responsive scrolling. This small adjustment can have a significant impact on performance, particularly on mobile devices. Implementing passive event listeners not only optimizes scroll performance but also contributes to overall site efficiency, leading to happier, more engaged users. Start incorporating this practice today to take your website’s performance to the next level.

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