By Jen Brister
When you're designing a Web site for a small business, you might wonder exactly how much of the material you're showing readers has to be above the fold. The "fold" is the bottom part of the page that remains unseen before you scroll down to read further.
The term "above the fold" comes from how you'd view a newspaper that is folded in half—what you see is what is above the fold. You have to flip or open the newspaper to see the rest. The word on the street used to be that Web users needed to see all relevant information above the fold, because visitors were unlikely to scroll down or simply didn't know how.
But times have changed. With at least one computer in every household on average, just about everyone knows how to use the scroll bar. Not only that, users expect to scroll to see the bottom of the page and don't mind doing just that.
Eye tracker testing has shown that Web users check out the scroll bar as a way to assess how long or short the page might be. The testing has also proven that less is more. The less material above the page, the more users were apt to scroll to find out what was hiding below. If you leave a good amount of white space, which is easy on the eyes, above the fold of the page, you can be sure that your users will feel comfortable scrolling down the page to keep reading.
There are a few instances in which users are reluctant to scroll down to see what is below the fold. In such cases, the design element of the Web site works against the company. For instance, if you have a horizontal line close to the fold of the page, users are likely to see that and assume that is the bottom of the page without ever trying to scroll down. The use of dark horizontal lines on a Web site can definitely discourage scrolling.
If you check out big retail Web sites such as Amazon or WalMart, you will notice that their pages are, on average, three traditional pages long. Users have to scroll down the page to see the remainder of the content and user reviews. As you may know, this does not deter users from shopping on these Web sites.
Must Anything Be above the Fold?
You might be wondering if there is certain material that you should place above the fold, or if it even matters. If you are running a retail Web site, you need to make sure that the price of an item and the availability of the time is above the fold. This is a matter of consideration to the user. In the case of Amazon, all of this information, plus shipping information and offers for upscale items, are above the fold.
If your Web site is running advertisements as a means of revenue, you will want at least one of those advertisements to be above the fold, so that it gets the most exposure possible. Be careful, though, not to let your advertisements crowd your content.
About the Author
Jen Brister has been a writer, researcher, and Internet marketer for three years. She makes her living writing full time, publishing videos, and creating Web sites.