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Below the fold

Originally – “Above the fold” is a design term that refers to the location of an important news story/article/photograph/etc. that is on the upper half of the front page of the newspaper. The fold, these days more often times refers to the bottom of a web page – as to what can be seen without having to scroll.

For years, our clients, advertisers and our design team has been concerned and cautious about designing above the fold. But that theory and mindset, we believe is changing on a daily basis. The hierarch of content is what leads the user through the site, and these days, that falls more often below the fold.

We decided to do a little research.

First we found research from Clicktale, a leader in web analytics and usability. Their conclusion was that total page length is not a strong factor in terms of how many people will scroll below the fold or reach the bottom of the page.

Here are a few interesting numbers:

The average location for the fold is between 430 and 860 pixels down on the page.

• 76% of people will scroll below the fold.
• 15-22% of people will reach the bottom of the page.
• 64-68% of people will reach the halfway point of a page.
• 91% of pages are long enough to require scrolling.

After reading this we decided to do a little more of a “hands on” research approach to the fold question. We decided to look at the 13 most popular sites as of September 1, 2010 and see just how many fell below the fold. We took a look at Google’s Top 13 most visited sites on the web. Keep in mind that the list excludes adult sites, ad networks, domains that don’t have publicly visible content or don’t load properly, and certain Google sites.

Here they are:

• bing
• Wordpress
• Sina
• mozilla
• qq
• baidu
• blogspot
• microsoft
• msn
• wikipedia.org
• live
• yahoo
• facebook

The answer?

60% fell below the fold. And 100%, like Google, fell below the fold after one click.

The conclusion? Designing below the fold is not just okay, but becoming the norm. STILL that depends on the intended audience/user and how the user needs to digest the information. Key points to think about are: Where does the focal point need to be? What is the hierarchy of information and how will the user flow through each page – and where do you want to lead them.

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