Don’t fear the fold – people do scroll

Sometimes (too often) you get to hear “all content has to be ‘above the fold’ or people will miss it”. I have always been very skeptical of this, especially when applied dogmatically. I’m convinced that most people who use the Web know how to scroll and will do so when necessary.

A good article to refer people to next time this discussion comes up is The myth of the page fold: evidence from user testing (which I found through Innehåll ”under vecket” når fram: Läsarna scrollar). In the article, which is based on data from over 800 user testing sessions, the authors come to the conclusion that the fold is not a significant barrier.

The article ends with three design tips:

  1. Less is more – don’t be tempted to cram everything above the fold. Good use of whitespace and imagery encourages exploration.
  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. 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.

Note that the authors are not saying that your pages can be endlessly long and that it doesn’t matter where you put the most important content. The most important stuff should still be near the top of the page, but you do not need to squeeze everything into the top 600 pixels as long as you design the page to encourage scrolling when necessary.

Posted on December 14, 2009 in Usability