In Web 2.0, what’s above the fold?

Stephen Wellman at Information Week points out Milissa Tarquini’s article about Blasting the Myth of the “fold” and where it is on user’s screens.
In print ad buying, one of the first things I learned as a junior media planner back in the late 80’s was to ask for placement above the fold, and in a far-forward right-hand page. This is based on how people read newspapers, where their eye (in a western alphabet page) is on the right-hand side of the page, and looking at the top first. (In Asian and Hebrew/Arabic, your mileage may vary).

On the web, page design seeks to attract users in the first part of the screen, but as Milissa points out clearly, people have very different sized screens, and some people are looking at pages on mobile devices. Some content is coming in widgets, and some screens can be redesigned by the end viewer (like iGoogle, My AOL, etc.)

Some excellent advice:

When does the fold matter?

The most basic rule of thumb is that for every site the user should be able to understand what your site is about by the information presented to them above the fold. If they have to scroll to even discover what the site is, its success is unlikely.

Functionality that is essential to business strategy should remain (or at least begin) above the fold. For example, if your business success is dependent on users finding a particular thing (movie theaters, for example) then the widget to allow that action should certainly be above the fold.

This article is a must-read for people thinking about design as they start a new web effort. Thank you Milissa.