There is a common perception that users do not scroll when visiting web sites. Studies from Jakob Nielsen have shown that whilst this isn’t the case it is certainly important to place important information above the page’s initially viewable area.
“Web users spend 80% of their time looking at information above the page fold. Although users do scroll, they allocate only 20% of their attention below the fold.”
I’d recommend reading the Nielsen article to see some examples of what gets a user’s attention on a long page of content – with some cool eye-tracking ‘gaze-plots’. These are some great illustrations on what a user views based on the structure of content on a page, as well as detailed analysis.
I’ve also seen a couple of good tools that can be used to help check existing sites or designs:
- Google Browser Size – overlays a website showing the percentage of users who will be able to view various areas of your page (based on statistics of people visiting Google’s homepage)
- Where Is The Fold – a simple representation of where the fold appears on a site for different screen resolutions.
- IE Developer Toolbar – quickly allows you to resize your window to one of a number of common sizes
- Firefox Add-On – numerous add-ons available for Firefox to allow window resizing. I’m currently using Yet Another Window Resizer