by Greg Crandell
Back when newspapers were as simple as "Really Simple" syndication got, being "above the fold" or "below the fold" was something that mattered to editors and advertisers. Being above the fold means better visibility and a greater likelihood of response and recognition. While fewer folks are reading papers these days, ads and articles that are above the fold are still regarded as more important and more desirable.
This concept has translated to web design to some degree. It's led most folks who design websites to post all the "good content" just under the site header, or anywhere within the bounds of the "first scroll". More and more these days, web designers and usability experts are questioning whether or not "the fold" exists on the web.
This article from Clockwork Active Media Systems starts shooting some holes in the conventional wisdom. Better information architecture, says the article, is much more important than where things are relative to the fold. Some resources from the article that might be helpful to your design team/web managers:
- http://browsersize.googlelabs.com/ - this link will show you browser sizes and percentages, indicating how many people have their browser windows open to a specific size. How many people, on average, are seeing your actionable content? Do they have any way to contact you? Do they see content worth seeing within a specific size range? Type in your own URL at the top to use the overlay.
- http://www.thereisnopagefold.com/ - Get used to websites such as these - with URLs being easier to register these days, "single serving" websites like this will become more prevalent. Have only ONE thing to say? You need a single serving site, just like this one. If this is a little technologically advanced for you, let me give you a hint: scroll down. The folks behind the "There is no page fold" movement want to get away from this above/below fold mindset. If users see anything interesting on your website, they'll scroll; if they don't, they'll bolt. Simple, right?
I'm not an expert on where people look/how they behave online, but I will say that I'm more inclined to read through a page that's linked to me. If I've got a few minutes and I need to find something on a given website, I'll browse around and hunt for the information I want. Going back to the design argument, if something is clearly defined or demonstrated on a website, scrolling to find it won't bother you. Better to have information that's easy to understand than information that's easy to find, but better still to have both.