Google has released a new tool called Browser Size designed to make it easier for web site operators to test the layouts of their pages.
"In a newspaper, the most important story is featured on the front page. If it's a really important piece, it's placed 'above the fold', which means you can find it on the top half of the first page," said Google software engineer Bruno Bowden in a blog post.
"The bottom half is folded behind and isn't readily seen when you first look at the newspaper. The same concept applies to browsers."
Bowden explained that, unlike a newspaper, there is no clear fold line on a browser, which may lead to important information being missed by some visitors. He suggested that, by taking a fresh look at a web page, companies could improve the user experience, while boosting traffic to overlooked parts of their sites.
"You can, of course, scroll downwards, but many people don't scroll and will miss it entirely," he said.
"For example, on the download page for Google Earth, the install rate increased by 10 per cent when we moved the 'Download' button 100 pixels upward. We can attribute that increase to users who wanted to try out Google Earth, but didn't see the button before."
Bowden said that the tool collects data on the height and width of the page, and assesses it against a pool of comparable browser statistics gathered from a sample of users. This will help designers make sure that the key elements of their pages are visible to the most visitors, and ensure that any marketing or promotional efforts are well received, according to Google.
"For example, if an important button is in the 80 per cent region it means that 20 per cent of users have to scroll in order to see it," said Bowden.
"If you're a web designer, you can use Browser Size to redesign your page to minimise scrolling, and make sure that the important parts of the page are always prominent to your audience. We hope people will use this tool to make their web sites better, in turn making the web better for everyone."
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