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What is your advice for designing for 'the fold'? Is this still a concern? Is the concern that people won't scroll? Can't you use visual cues to help users understand that there's more content below the fold? Obviously you want to have the most important information or what you think users are looking for up top.

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3 Answers 3

up vote 20 down vote accepted

To quote one of Jakob Nielson's studies on scrolling behavior:

Today, users will scroll. However, you shouldn't ignore the fold and create endless pages for two reasons:

  • Long pages continue to be problematic because of users' limited attention span. People prefer sites that get to the point and let them get things done quickly. Besides the basic reluctance to read more words, scrolling is extra work.
  • The real estate above the fold is more valuable than stuff below the
    fold for attracting and keeping users' attention.

So, yes, you can put information below the fold rather than limit yourself to bite-sized pages.

To add to what Nielson wrote, lead with your most important information, your best offer. Keep your primary call to action above the fold. Attention spans are short on the web and it's best to make your point and make it sooner rather than later.

If you want users to keep reading, make it easy for them to do so. Break up your pages with headings, graphics, and bullet points. Make your key points easy to see. Some users may just scan, but make sure they are able get everything they need from your page by reading your headlines, pull quotes, and bolded text, with the option of going more in-depth by reading every word. It also helps to put some content on the fold so that a user can see part of it, but will have to scroll down to see the rest.

Where is the fold? It's all over and with the increased usage of mobile devices, it will only grow more diverse. You'll need to very carefully consider your target audience and make adjustments based on your own analytics.

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1  
+1 for a concise and complete answer. I wouldn't have anything to add to that. –  Anne Schuessler Sep 9 '10 at 7:30
    
+1 good answer! –  Dan Barak Sep 9 '10 at 8:44
    
+1 for a brilliant answer! –  Sk93 Sep 10 '10 at 14:41
    
+1 for making your key points easy to see :) –  Matt Sep 20 '10 at 20:14
    
Great! The key parts of your answer fit above the fold :) –  James Crook Jun 7 '11 at 14:25

Check out UX Myth #3: People don’t scroll, it has many references.

Designing for the fold is discussed in UIE's Utilizing the Cut-off Look to Encourage Users To Scroll. But, as previously noted, the fold is becoming more nuanced with the different screen and window sizes people use.

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A point I didn't see mentioned by those references is that some users will arrive at a page expecting it to contain material of interest, while others may arrive at a page hoping that it will contain material of interest but expecting that it probably won't; most users will probably be somewhere between. Users who are clicking through a lot of search engine results in the hopes of finding something useful aren't likely to spend much time on pages whose usefulness isn't immediately apparent; putting sought-after content above the fold may help a lot. –  supercat 2 days ago

Here's an interesting article relating to the fold, and how most people seem to give it too much weight. http://iampaddy.com/lifebelow600/

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