Webpages are constrained by very little these days. There is no standard screen size, and there is no limitation to how much information a single page can hold. With such flexible parameters, how can you plan your website so that users don't miss your most important messages?
Here are four things to consider when negotiating scrolling, 'the fold', and click-through's.
Research into website user behavior is showing that users fully expect to scroll as a normal part of visiting a website. It's common for users to use the scroll bar to gauge how long the page is, and scrolling is an easier way to browse lots of related content (like articles or products) than clicking from page to page.
Content further down the page shouldn't be considered hidden.
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The Fold Is Dead, Long Live the Fold
'The Fold' is the portion of a website visible without scrolling. It comes from the newspaper days, where the most important content earned space on the top half of the front page so it would be visible on newsstands.
But on a website there is no fold. Innumerable screen sizes mean there's no way to know where the fold is, and because of user scroll behavior, the fold is constantly moving! So the importance of the fold in web design is quickly diminishing as devices become more and more diverse and content becomes more dynamic.
However, information hierarchy is still important! Consider content carefully and make the most commonly used actions easy to access. Make sure you guide your users to your most treasured call to actions strategically.
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Google is Watching!
Scrolling plays a part in how Google ranks search results. If there is too much decorative or empty space above the fold, this may cause users to stay on your page longer because they must scroll to explore. This time spent on the page affects bounce rate. A good bounce rate affects page rank positively, but if Google suspects the bounce rate is being inorganically affected by lots of content above the fold, page ranking could suffer.
Keep in Google's good graces and serve your users well by carefully considering content structure.
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Scroll vs Click
According to Brooklyn United, scrolling is a continuation of an action (you're already scrolling), but clicking is a new action, a new commitment. Because scrolling is less of a commitment than clicking away, you may find some content is easier to browse on a nicely designed longer page than split across many different shorter pages. Putting content within a longer page can give you more control over how a narrative is presented to the user.
There is no single right answer for page layout or sitemap design, but keeping current on the latest in user experience research can give you the information you need to make the best decision for your situation.