September 1 2011 // Education

Let's Talk Page Fold

What is the page fold?

Page fold is a term carried into the web from the print newspaper industry. It is the area of a web page appearing on a user's screen before any scrolling takes place. Because the most common screen resolution is 1024 x 768, content above the 700 pixel line is usually considered to be "safe".

If you question whether or not your website's safe area falls into the 700 pixels category simply check your analytics data.

Check to see how your website appears at various screen resolutions quickly and easily.

Is the page fold important?

My short answer is yes, the page fold is still a force to be reckoned with.

"Web users spend 80% of their time looking at information above the page fold. Although users do scroll, they allocate only 20% of their attention below the fold."
--Jacob Nielsen's Alertbox
March 22, 2
010: Scrolling and Attention
The long answer is there are varying degrees of reckoning. When designing, you first have to determine how important the page fold is to your homepage by answering these questions:
  • Who is your target audience?
  • What are they coming to your site to do?
  • a task?
  • casually browse?
  • both?

At one end of the spectrum where the page fold is very important you have a bank website. Account holders arrive at the site to quickly check account balances, transfer funds, etc. That target audience wants to complete their tasks quickly and move on.

At the other end of the spectrum you have a bargain retail website. At this site most of the users come to browse sale items and click on any that are of particular interest to them. The most enticing deals should still be at the top but, that audience is far more likely to scroll down the page in search of deals.

If you have trouble determining how important the page fold is to your audience, Google's In-Page Analytics (beta) now provides you with a site overlay which provides a percentage of how many clicks below the fold your page is currently receiving.

The page fold is important to your site - now what?

Do not despair if you discover that the page fold is indeed important to your website's homepage. It does not mean that you are destined for an overly crammed homepage design. You can still keep your design clean and your navigation intuitive. In order to ensure a clean and intuitive design we recommend:

  • Structuring your main navigation simply and in the way your audience will approach you, not the way your company is structured. Quickly answer the user's question - "Where do I begin?"
  • Reviewing your website's analytics to get a feel for what content/tasks are really important to your audience and therefore might require a homepage callout or quick link.
  • Above all else, make sure that within mere seconds of arriving at your homepage your audience is keenly aware of why they should do business with you.

Keep in mind the "3-click rule" is a fallacy. Users are comfortable clicking numerous times so long as they are secure in the knowledge they are on the correct path.

The page fold is not terribly important to your site - now what?

If your market research points to evidence of the page fold not being terribly important to your site make sure you are well versed in exactly how to go about designing for below the fold content.

  • critical content always goes above the fold
  • avoid horizontal design elements near the 700 pixel line
  • must encourage scrolling with content that is visible just above the fold

Here is an example where a horizontal design element was used near the 700 pixel line. This is the site at 1024 x 768. Would you think there is some great content below the grass?

There's actually a pretty cool contest for consumers being advertised down there...

On the flip side sites such as Entertainment Weekly do a great job of teasing the site visitor. Who wouldn't want to know what Reader Favorites await them below?

Written By

Caitlin McTaggart

Published In


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