Saturday, October 04, 2008

Stop focusing on the fold

Research since 1997 has indicated that the 'fold' in webpages (the bottom of the first visible screen of a webpage) is no longer a hard barrier for people.

However the myth of the fold still persists in many web designs.

Boxes and arrows has hosted an excellent article by Milissa Tarquini, Blasting the Myth of the Fold.

In the article Milissa provides a clear call to web designers to move beyond the fold-based design of the past and recognise that, provided the site's purpose is clear in the first visible screen, placing important content below the fold does not make it unfindable for web users.

She compares the clickthrough rates of items of a number of AOL pages, finding that in many cases links below the fold receive as many, and sometimes more, clicks than items at the top of the page that are supposedly more visible.

One of the interesting findings reported is that due to different browser resolutions and rendering engines, there is little consistency in where the fold occurs in web pages anyway. The most common fold line is experienced by only 10% of web users as variations in PC screens and browsers means that the fold appears differently to different site visitors.

Milissa's advice is to instead provide visual cues and compelling content to encourage users to scroll through your page, thereby no longer forcing designers to cram in all the important content into the first screen that appears.

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