Here at your friendly Suffolk website design agency, we like to think outside the box, offer a creative edge and push the boundaries when it comes to website design.
In website design there are certain guidelines or principles to consider; “the design grid must be followed”, “content is key” and “navigation must be intuitive.” However, in recent years many design agencies would also lump “All important information MUST be above the fold” into this list, but is this still really the case?
Firstly, what is the fold?
This term is derived from the world of graphic design and print design and refers to the upper half of a front page (often of a newspaper) where the most important story, the headline or photo is contained. In website design this relates to the section of the website design visible on first view, without needing to scroll.
What height is the average screen? The issue with this question is that this simple question is a very hotly contested subject in website design! Screen sizes tend to vary quite dramatically from small phone screens to giant cinema screen and everything in-between! Therefore, there is no truly defined area and no set number of pixels. Most website designers tend to feel that ‘the fold’ is about 600pixels down from the top of the page, although this is widely debated. Some major advertising networks (such as ‘The Blogher Network’) define the height very precisely at 768px whilst others (such as ‘The FoodieBlogRoll’) feel it is closer to 1000px.
It’s safe to say that there are not many topics in website design circles that will bring even the most passive website designer as quickly to the boil as this subject. It’s hotly contested and passion for this subject shows no sign of wavering within the website design industry.
Adding fuel to this debate, a website designer called Jakob Neilsen decided to conduct some in-depth research into website behaviour in 2006 and his findings showed that up to 77% of users do not scroll at all when viewing a website and so never view the information below the height of their screen.
So is that case closed? Well… no, not really! Rather than answering the question once and for all this study only served to stoke this already red-hot debate in website design and caused huge controversy. This was predominantly due to the fact that other studies (ClickTale 2006) have found that 76% of users scroll (to at least some extent) and that 22% of users scroll all the way to the bottom of the page! The same study found that “Visitors are equally likely to scan the entire page no matter the page size.”
The trouble with the fold
The trouble with ‘the fold’ is that it has become much more important than it should be. It should be a loose notion that website designers consider whilst planning the design and hierarchy of a site. Instead, website designers tend to take a certain pixel height as gospel and simply cram every single element of the site into this set area! Any notion of legibility, whitespace or simply the flow of the site go straight out of the window.
Similar to a retail window-display, the opening section of the site should entice you to commit, lead you through the door and start you on a journey. It should titillate and seduce to ensure users remain engaged and hand-held through a digital experience. If a shop attempted to cram every product and offer in the window all at once, the only message it would truly be conveying is one of disorganisation, indecision and chaos.
The bitter irony of feeling you need to hit the viewer with all your messages at once (in order to keep them on the site) is that a crammed, poorly laid out site is the first thing to make users leave!
Hierarchy of content
Don’t misconstrue the meaning here, website design requires hierarchy and ranking but deciding everything is equally important is the same as saying nothing is important. I would argue that the brand of the company the site is for is of high importance. Accurately portraying the brand is absolutely imperative, the user must know instantly what site they’re on. This should be portrayed through the styling of the website design itself but equally, having the logo in the top left corner is a universally accepted feature. When viewing a site (perhaps even subconsciously) we look for a large name/icon at the top of the page to know we are on the correct website.
For some website design projects, the next most important thing will be the company’s contact details or perhaps a key product or even just highlighting the core services, and this will be reflected in the design. It’s no coincidence that time specific messages, such as offers or sales tend to go in the top banner area on a website, they go at the top because they are so important. First impressions still count, even in website design and the top of a website space can be used to not only capture your audience but also lead them down the page. Utilise this area for your most essential information while simultaneously reassuring the end-user that the paragraph of text all about the ‘company history, will be accessible further down the page.
Scrolling has become natural practice when online, and the rise in mobile browsing has only exaggerated this. Browsing through website designs is no longer soley undertaken on desktop computers. Mobile browsing is increasing every day and many more gadgets such as Internet-ready televisions are becoming readily available, further adding to the range of internet ready devices available.
In conclusion, the previous role of ‘the fold’ is obsolete, outdated… dead. Similarly to the newspapers for which the term was originally created, the aim is to progress the viewer past the fold. In the world of print the aim was to get the reader to read the whole publication, not just the front page and this is certainly no different for website design.
Let the user explore the site, design well and in a luring manner that takes the user on a journey through your content.
Alternatively, speak to your friendly Suffolk website design agency, Logic Design and we’d be more than happy to discuss how we could redesign your site in order to maximize potential!
Why not give us a call on 01284 706 842 and we can discuss your options!