Being in the website design industry, and having regualr contact with clients who have a basic understanding of the web, you start to notice the same topics of conversation come up time and time again. One of the common dogmas which tends to arise is the “we cant put anything below the fold”, basically referring to the practice of trying to keep your important content “above the fold” (so no scrolling is required to see it).

The logic is fundamentally sound – “dont put anything important below the fold”, so its fairly difficult to make a counter case when a situation calls for it. This is especially so when you’re up against a particularly strong advocate of the fold being the “edge” of the page (don’t get too near or you might sail off the edge of the internet!). A good article to refer people to next time this discussion comes up is The myth of the page fold: evidence from user testing (via 456 berea street). The article, which is based on data from over 800 user testing sessions, makes the case that the fold is not a significant barrier to users viewing the full length of the page.

The article is full of clear points and supporting screenshots and test data, and some important key points are made to conclude…

  1. 1. Less is more – don’t be tempted to cram everything above the fold. Good use of whitespace and imagery encourages exploration.
  2. 2. Stark, horizontal lines discourage scrolling – this doesn’t mean stop using horizontal full width elements. Have a small amount of content just visible, poking up above the fold to encourage scrolling.
  3. 3. Avoid the use of in-page scroll bars – the browser scrollbar is an indicator of the amount of content on the page. iFrames and other elements with scroll bars in the page can break this convention and may lead to content not being seen.

Definately recommended reading if you get the chance.