One of our web designers brought an interesting blog post to my attention the other day. The article, "The Myth of the Page Fold...", addresses the rule of thumb in web design that if you want visitors to read your content, keep it above the fold. The fold refers to the bottom of your screen. If content is below the fold, you have to scroll down to read it. The authors suggest that their own eye tracking studies reveal that people are willing, even likely, to scroll down as long as there are visual cues above the fold. In particular, if your website design is uncluttered and naturally flows downward (without horizontal interruptions like bars or solid lines), visitors will happily scroll down to read the rest of the page.
From a usability point of view, it seems that you can opt for fewer, longer web pages and still be in good shape. In fact, designing long-page websites is a hot new trend for 2010. Taken to the extreme, one-page websites are perhaps the hottest trend - here's an elegant example. People are comfortable with blogs and blog sites, and these almost always require you to scroll below the fold. Another point is avoiding interruption. If you require someone to click to get to the next page, you may lose them. If you think about accessibility via smart phones, it also makes sense to design pages that can be read via scrolling, as opposed to clicking a (barely visible) button to get to the next page of content. But the debate is far from over. Here are some pros and cons for below-the-fold website designs:
- More content on each page - easier to find your content
- More keyword-rich content on each page, possible impact on SEO
- Modern, trendy design
- Similar to blogs and blog sites, people are used to scrolling
- Better for smart phones, easier to find and navigate content
- Less interruption, keep visitor's attention
- Possibly too much content on a page - difficult to focus your visitor into landing pages for lead capture
- Reduced number of indexed pages, possible impact on SEO
- Design may appear to be cluttered or unbalanced
- Too much text can be a turn-off. Need to balance with images, videos and design elements.
- Some people really hate long pages because they remind them of endless sales-pitch landing pages.
What are your criteria for an effective website design?
Do you need a new website design? We have some great ideas for you.