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Imagine you are designing a home page for a site, and this site aims to provide four key services to a certain audience: A categorized, browseable library of documents; a feed of recent news stories; A collection of upcoming calendar events; and a blog (ie, collection of upcoming posts.)

If you have decided that those four things are your key offerings to the user, how critical is it that the home page design have some representation of those four items appear "above the fold" on the home page (i.e. visible before the user starts to scroll downward)?

(In this I am not counting a mere link in the top nav bar as actually "representing" that function on the home page, but rather a block on the home page that in some way features/displays/teases, and links to, that function.)

To put it another way: If you consider a function to be important, is it truly poor practice if the user has to scroll down before they see its content on the home page [not counting a single link in a top nav]? Or, alternatively, is it not too much to expect the user to scroll downwards on a home page to fully see the site's main purposes?

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Are you asking because there is some limitation in terms of the space or layout? Depending on the type of service it provides, this could have a lot of impact for first-time visitors for sure. I think if you have a specific reason for not showing it without scrolling we can discuss the merits of it, otherwise I don't see any obvious reasons for making this design decision. –  Michael Lai Mar 26 '13 at 4:05
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Slightly difficult to know what is 'above the fold' for every computer screen out there, even if you only count the most common resolutions you still have to account for mobile portrait and landscape modes. –  BigHomie Mar 26 '13 at 15:23
    
yes -- I recognize that this user or that user will have larger screens, and some are on mobile, etc. But for the sake of my getting a sense of an answer, I would just say let's all pretend for the sake of argument that the designer did have the ability to be confident to know where "the fold" did cut off, even though in reality they can't. How significant is that cut-off point in determining what you put above or below it? –  estephan500 Mar 27 '13 at 0:22
    
Afraid I didn't understand the text of Michael Lai's comment. Yes, my assumption is that I will have more items and blocks to place on my home page than will fit in the above the fold area -- when the user scrolls down, they will find additional material and functionality. That is why I'm interested in this question. –  estephan500 Mar 27 '13 at 0:24

1 Answer 1

The design of a homepage is analogous to a story (for people with short attention spans). While it may be a good idea to introduce the main character(s) at the start of the story, there are other effective ways of doing it too.

What matters is whether or not your pages has the effect that you want it to have, not how you get that effect. In many situations this will mean showing your most compelling points early on, but it could be just as effective playing on a sense of mystery or exclusivity. It all depends on so many factors, that the only reliable way to know what is best is to test it. Lots of A/B testing.


That said a good starting point would be looking at successful websites that have a similar sort of product / service to what you have and try to understand why they have chosen a particular methodology for their home page. That should give you some good material to start with for testing. This is for inspiration and understanding only. I'm not suggesting you rip off someone else's work.

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interesting. To be honest, I'm trying to make this site be the most ultra-handy resource possible so that visitors can zap their way right to what they need... so the strategy of hiding things for a sense of mystery or exclusivity seems risky. (I do sense that you are describing something quite subtle, but in general, I regularly focus on the dream of a super "right within reach" feeling.) –  estephan500 Mar 27 '13 at 9:31
    
@estephan500 My point is that there is no 'right' way to do it. It sounds like you want it obviously in someone's face (not a bad thing), so generally I would suggest focusing on your three most valuable points to your user and making those visually noticeably then. But it's still somewhat subjective. –  JohnGB Mar 27 '13 at 10:19

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