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One aspect of a good website design and resulting conversion rate is to make sure your website’s most critical information and actions are placed in a visible location (without scrolling) when a user comes to your website. I will explain where this is and how its helps improve the return from your website.
The Fold refers to point at which a users web browser cuts off the rest of the web page when a website loads. The resulting top visible area of a web page is commonly known as ‘above the fold’ and anything not visible in the user’s web browser is referred to as ‘below the fold’.
The term comes from the design of newspapers where they located an important photograph or news story in the top half of the front page of the newspaper. This is because most newspapers are delivered and presented to customers folded up; meaning only the top half of the front page is visible.
Unfortunately when this concept is transferred to computers and the internet, the ‘above the fold’ area is defined by the size of each person’s monitor, whether they are using their web browser full size and how many toolbar extensions they are using (which would make the visible area smaller). This makes it difficult to design a website for a specific above the fold size, however we can get access to data on the average viewing areas of a users screen with a little searching around on the internet or you can analyse your own website through your Google Analytics data.
There are a couple of tools out there to give you a good idea how much of your site most users will see. Fold Tester has a nice clear interface and will allow you to left, center or right align the data as well as set the opacity of the fold overlay. According to their description, the fold positions are gathered from millions of internet browser statistics so it has a good average of browser sizes. Google’s little tool called Browser Size will overlay its own recorded browser size statistics over your website to show how much their average users would see.
Although it’s not essential to optimise the design of your site in line with ‘the fold’, it should definitely be considered if you have a critical piece of information that every user should see. Google users typically click back and forth between the search results more than in Bing or Yahoo, so it makes sense to try and capture their attention with an attractive graphic or attention grabbing headline. Don’t force users to have to scroll down or across to find important information.