Usability on "The Fold"

19 Aug 2005 - 2:41pm
9 years ago
4 replies
889 reads
Chaniya Suebsanguan
2005

Hi everyone,

I'm doing research on the new "fold" for my company website. The
latest article from Jakob Nielsen looks at Scrolling and Scrollbars
<http://www.cre8asiteforums.com/redirect/jump.php?url=lmth.11705002%2Fxo
btrela%2Fmoc.tiesu%2F%2F%3Aptth> , and appears to make some good points
about how poorly designed scrollbars can frustrate uses, create
accessibility challenges, and cause people to miss information.

One of the statements he makes is: "Display all important information
above the fold. Users often decide whether to stay or leave based on
what they can see without scrolling."

With more people used to the idea that the information on their screen
will scroll, is it as important to have everything "above the fold?".
Also, as of last year, we had some findings that monitor sizes greater
than 1024x768 account for 63% of internet users hence the use of the
800x600 monitor screen is declining.

Does anyone have any thoughts or feedback on what the "new" fold is?

Thanks so much!

Chaniya Suebsanguan

Information Architect

WeightWatchers.com

Comments

21 Aug 2005 - 2:23pm
John Malhinha
2007

In my large media company, we've recently made the switch in designing
for the 10x7 screen, but making sure that our design translates well on
a 8x6 screen (the important caveat there is to make sure there is no
horizontal scrolling).

One item to keep in mind is when designing for a 10x7 screen, make sure
there isn't a clean break at the fold line. In other words, have the
beginning section of a block content that lies beneath the fold viewable
above. This entices the user to scroll below the fold to explore what
else is there.

//jm

"Chaniya Suebsanguan" <CSuebsanguan at weightwatchers.com> wrote:

>Hi everyone,
>
>
>
>I'm doing research on the new "fold" for my company website. The
>latest article from Jakob Nielsen looks at Scrolling and Scrollbars
><http://www.cre8asiteforums.com/redirect/jump.php?url=lmth.11705002%2Fxo
>btrela%2Fmoc.tiesu%2F%2F%3Aptth> , and appears to make some good points
>about how poorly designed scrollbars can frustrate uses, create
>accessibility challenges, and cause people to miss information.
>
>One of the statements he makes is: "Display all important information
>above the fold. Users often decide whether to stay or leave based on
>what they can see without scrolling."
>
>With more people used to the idea that the information on their screen
>will scroll, is it as important to have everything "above the fold?".
>Also, as of last year, we had some findings that monitor sizes greater
>than 1024x768 account for 63% of internet users hence the use of the
>800x600 monitor screen is declining.
>
>
>
>Does anyone have any thoughts or feedback on what the "new" fold is?
>
>
>
>
>
>Thanks so much!
>
>Chaniya Suebsanguan
>
>Information Architect
>
>WeightWatchers.com
>
>********************************
>
>

21 Aug 2005 - 5:54pm
Todd Warfel
2003

Um, yes and no.

Customers are more likely to scroll for content pages (e.g. news
articles), than for graphic heavy pages, or graphic/text heavy pages
(home pages and landing pages). For whatever reason, we've observed
customers not scrolling on home, landing, form, and application type
pages - these are the pages where they seem to expect that if it's
important, then it should be above the page.

For example, recently we did some usability testing on a web-based
application. Several screens had action buttons below the fold, but
not above. Customers didn't scroll down and couldn't figure out how
to continue to the next screen.

Another example, was another web-based application, which after
submitting a document into the system, additional details were
available in a text area below the fold - again, participants never
saw the additional information.

On a recent redesign of a financial transaction site (financial
products you can look for, but not purchase) had the same result -
items below the fold were not seen on landing pages and the home
page. However, that same site had a great deal of content pages, and
for those pages, participants always scrolled up and down, if for no
other reason than to see how long the article was...

On Aug 19, 2005, at 3:41 PM, Chaniya Suebsanguan wrote:

> One of the statements he makes is: "Display all important information
> above the fold. Users often decide whether to stay or leave based on
> what they can see without scrolling."

Cheers!

Todd R. Warfel
Design & Usability Specialist
--------------------------------------
Contact Info
Email: twarfel at mac.com
AIM: twarfel at mac.com
Blog: http://toddwarfel.com
--------------------------------------

22 Aug 2005 - 2:52pm
Lada Gorlenko
2004

> One of the statements he makes is: "Display all important information
> above the fold. Users often decide whether to stay or leave based on
> what they can see without scrolling."

This is one of the classic examples where, IMO, results of usability
studies don't matter. Even if 100% users scroll happily, it only makes
info below the fold *as good as* info above the fold. Which means
that above-the-fold has chances to win or draw, while below-the-fold
has chances to draw or lose. It's a no-brainer. Save money where you
can apply common sense. Even better, charge what you've saved for your
advanced logic :-)

The critical issue here is what you treat as important information.
"Important" does not necessarily mean "page content". In some cases,
it can mean "meta info about page content". If you have a lot to hide
below the fold (bad idea, but it's your risk), make some
above-the-fold space introduction to below-the-fold, either through a
descriptive summary of a set of links. Treat above-the-fold of long
pages as an executive summary: you read only one screen, you don't get
bogged in details, but you still know what the page is all about. The
bottom line is that you cannot lose with it.

Lada

22 Aug 2005 - 4:30pm
Susan Farrell
2004

At 6:54 PM -0400 8/21/05, Todd Warfel wrote:
>For example, recently we did some usability testing on a web-based
>application. Several screens had action buttons below the fold, but
>not above. Customers didn't scroll down and couldn't figure out how
>to continue to the next screen.
>
>[...]On a recent redesign of a financial transaction site (financial
>products you can look for, but not purchase) had the same result -
>items below the fold were not seen on landing pages and the home
>page. However, that same site had a great deal of content pages, and
>for those pages, participants always scrolled up and down ...

The important subtlety here is what John Malhinha alluded to and what
Tog calls the "illusion of completeness." If there is nothing
sticking up above the fold to indicate more content below, the page
may look complete, causing some people to ignore the scrollbar. This
is a tricky problem because you won't know exactly where that fold
will fall. With long content pages, often a partial line of text or
an unfinished sentence shows at the fold, making it more obvious that
something more is down there.

The problem seems to occur more with new and less-experienced web users.

Here's a case study (funny) of the illusion of completeness problem
and its close relative, the window that's not wide enough.

http://www.asktog.com/columns/000maxscrnsPrintable.html

It's not always a good idea to simply put submit buttons on the top
of forms as well as the bottom, when there are important form fields
or instructions potentially below the fold, because they may generate
errors that are hard for the user to figure out how to fix.

Adaptive forms are one workaround to this problem (of errors on form
fields below the fold). Adaptive forms in this case are forms that
serve up only the problematic field(s) accompanied by helpful error
messages next to the fields to which they apply. You can see this
techniques used quite a bit now in surveys that have conditional
questions. I've also seen forms that jump to the problem field when
they reload with errors. That seems pretty handy to me.

Making short forms is a pretty good idea, when it's possible to do so.

What doesn't work in many cases:

* Red error text at the top of the screen that refers to fields much
farther down (can be overlooked, subject to colorblindness, hard to
match error with field)

* Layers, popups, and iframes with error text in them (because of
browser differences and anti-ad technologies) Amazon is using some
technology to display error messages now that doesn't appear in
Firefox, Safari, icab or Camino on Mac OS X Panther, for example. I'm
not sure yet what it is, but whatever it is, please don't copy it.

For many years, I too waited for the bigger monitors to take over.
Sadly, that day is probably not going to arrive. What's happening
instead is a greater diversity of screen sizes. Even though the 640s
are mostly gone, here come the 320s on the sexy expensive handhelds.
Also, I went to do a field study last year at a very large company,
and I arrived at the same time as the boxes of brand new 800x600 flat
panels for everyone. There the workers process forms all day, using
web apps, and the 8x6 monitors helped readability while being cheaper
and taking up less room than a larger CRT would have.

I continue to advocate designing for the 8x6 screen, allowing space
for browser controls, scrollbars, and unmaximized browsers. I also
recommend liquid or elastic layouts to avoid horizontal scrolling at
reasonable window widths.

Susan

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