I've been working on a Google Analytics presentation for a January symposium at my day-job. That has led me to poke around a little more at the Plone.org stats there.
One relatively new feature is In-Page Analytics. It gives you as close to a heat map as you can get for free. Percentage clicks appear as small orange bubbles above each link. Interestingly, the top links for Plone.org are Downloads (26%), New Features (19%), Documentation (16%), and Home (8%). That's 69% of all clicks in just four areas.
One cute trick (at least in Firefox) is to open the site in question in another tab. The in-page bubbles are also applied in the new tab, which let's you get a better picture of the context of the statistics.
Another statistic tucked away in Analytics is the frequency of screen resolutions used by site visitors. Almost two thirds of Plone.org site visitors use one of just five screen resolutions:
To my surprise, 1280x800 is the most frequently used screen size. Here's a screen shot of Plone.org resized to that dimension.
Almost all of the news and upcoming events are "below the fold" at this resolution, as is the "Plone is among the top 2%..." text block. But the good news is that 69% of all visitor clicks are on screen at this resolution.
Also below the fold is the quasi-mega-menu in the footer. As Jakob Nielson recently pointed out mega-menus can be done badly, but done well (see his original March 2009 piece), they can enhance user experience, reduce scrolling, and help users find what they are looking for more easily. Just a thought...
Now let's take that same 1280x800 resolution for a stroll with some other CMS homepages.
Although it looks complete because the 800 px "fold" breaks in a clear area, a large bulk of material (and a jam-packed quasi-mega-menu at the bottom) needs scrolling before it can be seen.
In some ways like the Plone site, Announcements and Community News are truncated. Curiously, there's almost 1 cm of blank background above the content header. Perhaps that's to accommodate the snazzy "Support Joomla" diagonal banner.
Not so bad at first glance, until you realize that the entire area in line with the lighter gray background band is a rotating set of images. The only fixed content is the lengthy and hard to scan horizontal top menu and three highlighted but unclickable headings (What People are Saying, Capabilities & Benefits, SharePointSpotlight). Download SharePoint is practically invisible in the lower right and I almost missed the little cropped thumbnails in the set of images.
The Moral of the Story
I guess the take-away lesson from all this is to test any webpage design with a variety of screen resolutions before you lock in on something suboptimal for a large number of your site visitors. Take advantage of In-Page Analytics and make sure that highly visited links are highly visible and don't require scrolling to locate. The most important things in your page should be the most important things.