Users are lazy and ignorant. That's one conclusion we can draw from the fact that they don't even bother using the scroll wheel on their mouse most of the time.
A different, and more appropriate, conclusion is that users are so busy and there's so much information on the Web that it's not worth it to them to dig into a Web page unless the information that's initially viewable clearly communicates that the page has value to them. Sadly, since most pages have little value, users rightly decide to avoid scrolling most of the time. If you are designing Web pages, you must acknowledge this fact and make sure to present enough information above the fold to make them want to see what's below it.
In our study, 35 percent of pages were so short that they didn't require any scrolling. We won't go so far as to recommend such ultra-short pages, however, even though they obviously solve the problem of scrolling aversion. Our test users did not scroll more than half of the other 65 percent of pages that were longer. All the carefully designed information below the fold might as well have not existed as far as most users were concerned.
In our study for this book, users visited 3,992 pages that were longer than the browser window. This chart shows how many screenfuls of information users viewed on those pages. Obviously all users saw the first screenful (the one above the fold). But viewing frequency dropped off rapidly after that. More than half the users didn't scroll at all, so only 42% of users saw any information on the second screenful (the one immediately below the fold). Only 14 percent of users viewed beyond two screenfuls. Only the most persistent 1 percent of users viewed more than seven screens worth of information. (This doesn't mean that they read all of it, just that it was visible to them because they had scrolled that far down the page.)
Users with more Web experience scrolled more than those with less experience. Our low-experience users only scrolled 38 percent of long pages, whereas the high-experience users scrolled 46 percent of these pages. There are two possible explanations for this: First, experienced users are more aware that poorly designed Web sites sometimes hide important information below the fold, and second, they are faster at picking out relevant information by scanning Web pages, so they are more willing to take the time to do it.
This is the way the iPod page on page 34 of this chapter appears to a user viewing the page on a 1024-by-768 sized monitor, which was the most common screen size among home users at the time this screen shot was taken. Almost no information is visible without scrolling, but at least the most important facts are above the fold: what the product is and how it looks. Most likely Apple's fans are sufficiently committed to begin scrolling once these two facts have convinced them that they are on the right page. Other sites are strongly advised to be less arrogant.
Scrolling by Page Type
The percentage of users who scrolled the different kinds of Web pages in this table was calculated based only on those pages that required scrolling to be seen in their entirety on a monitor with a resolution of 1024-by-768 pixels. SERPs were scrolled the most, while homepages were scrolled the least. Note that even users who scrolled may not have scrolled enough to see the entire page.