Scratching Behind the Ears

In theory, there is endless space online to present all the information you want on a web page. The catch is the average browser height in only about 600 pixels. So where to designers draw the line – literally and figuratively? What should appear “above the fold” and what, if anything, should appear beneath?

I see the pros and cons of both focusing solely above the fold and drawing readers below. If the designer has presented a logical and natural hierarchy, readers will understand that information of lower relevance will appear lower on the page. Therefore, readers will continue reading if the design and content have held their attention, or if they need the information.

Web designers with good awareness of their page visitors and the product/service/information they are presenting, will be able to tell whether readers will dig deeper in a page.

Then there is another question that arises when you start talking about sitting the most relevant information above the fold – the header. Is it better to go big on a header or sacrifice that real estate to the presentation of the content? My answer: isn’t that a “depends” kind of question? If the header is large, but captivates the reader, it may be worth making the big statement. If the header is merely a place to label the company presenting the site and offer search options, then it might be better to make it smaller and focus the reader on the main product/service/information for which they came. The more websites I analyze for readability, usability, message, and content, the more I see there really isn’t one overriding guideline. Designers should know their content and their readers to decide the optimum utilization of real estate.


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