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The Fold in Web Development – New Guidelines

Below the fold – what’s really there?

The aversion to the area ‘below the fold’ in web development – the area that users have to scroll to get to – developed a long time ago. In fact, it developed so long ago that most computer mice only had two buttons… left and right ones. Scrolling used to be a cumbersome activity because you ad to mouse over to the scroll bar in your browser and physically drag the cursor down. The web development bias to the area above the fold also comes from the days of frames and iFrames, where many sites had a lot of unnecessary scrolling. While the environment has changed, and your mouse now has a middle scroll wheel, the aversion to anything below the fold remains. Today we challenge the idea that web development has to be jammed into a single screen to be good!

It is impossible not to scroll

There are several competing interests in creating a layout for your website development. These include:

• Getting enough valuable content on there for both the readers and the search engines
• Leaving enough white space and breathing room in the design to allow for visual attractiveness and the creation of focal points
• Leaving enough white space for people to easily figure out the navigation
• Ideally, it should take no more than 3 clicks for your user to get from an entry point to an end point (information). When you design completely above the fold, you need to create more sub-pages, which necessitates more link clicking.

People don’t mind scrolling

As I mentioned in the introduction, mice with scroll wheels and web development using CSS rather than frames means that people don’t really mind scrolling nowadays. The statistics support this:

• 76% of people will scroll below the fold to find what they are looking for
• Around 68% of people will reach the halfway point
• Around 22% of people will get all the way to the bottom of a page

Additionally, 91% (Ninety one percent!) of pages on the web are long enough that they require scrolling. If somebody doesn’t want to scroll, they probably hate using the web in general… and are more likely to look you up in the phone book anyway!

Consider your users

However, if you have a very narrow audience, it is worth considering whether the vast majority of your customers falls within that odd 25-30% of people that simply will not scroll to find information. A recent test linked personality types with scrolling behaviour, and found that:

• Methodical types and humanistic types make it to the bottom of the page more often than other personality type
• Spontaneous types and competitive types are less willing to scroll to find something.

So, if you’re marketing environmentally friendly products and your audience is comprised of humanistic types, don’t be afraid of the area below the fold. If your audience is exclusively sportspeople, keep the scrolling to a minimum.

Using the area above the fold

So, there is absolutely no need to jam everything that’s important to your website or the particular page above the fold in your web development process. It can help to think of a newspaper – there is very little apart from a couple of enticing headlines and pretty pictures above the fold. All the real information can be found much deeper – and when it comes to web development, that is a good example to follow!

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