Fat feet: A good thing?

There’s been an interesting discussion going down on the SitePoint forums, about the recent design trend towards so called “Fat Footers”. As per usual in there, you’ve got zealots on either side of the argument and then those who take a measured approach and get lost in the noise.

Anyway, Derek Powazek first popularised the idea last year with his Embrace your bottom! piece. The idea is that the footer on your site can be more than the plain old boilerplate legalese.

The theory goes thus: A reader arrives at a page on your site and gets drawn in by whatever fantastic piece of content you have top and centre. They read down the page and assuming you’ve done your job right, they reach the bottom wanting more. So you use your footer to give it to them, with links to related articles and other interesting content on your site.

Sounds great, so why the argument?

Now, I’m a great fan of these things. I really couldn’t see people’s problem with them at all.

Then, whilst exploring the resources on Webcredible’s site, I found a very interesting article: Usability for older web users. One of the things I took away from it is that older users are much less likely to scroll down a page to find what they need, probably because it’s a concept novel to computer technology.

This doesn’t really change my opinion of the fat footer. It’s still a novel way of presenting related / secondary / meta-data without distracting the user from the primary content — another useful tool in the box. It simply means you need to take your target audience into account. If you’re designing for the “silver surfer” generation (and with an ageing population in the UK, you really ought to be considering them), you need to be aware that they’re less likely to use any navigation that sits “below the fold”.

6 Responses to “Fat feet: A good thing?”

1. SimonB

I’m not a fan of fat footers, mainly because I am too lazy to scroll. All webites should be W I D E. 1680px would be good as that’s what my screen runs at :)

You need to make your website more accessible as well. Currently it’s in violation of the British Disability Discrimination Act. I think they can put you in prison for this :)

2. Olly

You mean that Sitecore found some minor HTML validation errors and sensationalised them? I’ve fixed most of them, but the remainder appear to be down to the way WordPress deals with quotes :(

They’re not a violation of the DDA anyway. Talk about using scare tactics to drum up business!

3. Jonathan Snook

Yeah, I’ve been hearing that “above the fold” argument for some time. Back in the late 90’s I heard it ALL the time. Luckily, most people have figured out what that thing on the right there does. I mean, can you imagine every PDF or Word document these people have been opening?

Fat footers are decent, although, I feel my time with the it may come to an end. I feel like I want a thin footer. Just a teaser… “Want more?” and then it takes them to a portal page of some sort. Heh, that’d be cool.

4. Olly

I think you need to start a trend there Mr Snook – one for version 7?

5. Jonathan Snook

We’ll have to see. :) The current comp still has the fat footer but I’m not loving it. The thin footer may be the way to go. (Alas, I may cop out and just make it all AJAXy slide-out crap)

6. matt

That sitescore doesn’t like my site, i don’t really care.

things in footers should be things that should be in footers, I put all the secondary guffage in them. job done.