Wednesday is terminology-day!
The term Footer is quite self explanatory, but there are some key factors that I'd like to highlight reagarding web footers. To get the key elements we'll start out by talking about footers within general publishing.
The general footer
Footers are where the author puts related but not crucial information, the small tidbits and references to sources, other similiar and interesting content that might entice the reader to find out more and deepen their knowledge in the field. Footer notes are very common within the scientific community to denote your literature or influencial references. The content found in headers or footers are not primary, but instead secondary content.
Secondary content on the web
On the web you have all sorts of mechanisms to fetch related information from other sources and present it to the user on your site. You can for example display related tweets, comments or recommended links and articles on the same subject. What is unique for the web is that this secondary content can be provided quite transparent to the user and always be up to date. This makes the web rich of secondary content on the web.
When do we wan’t to consume secondary content?
Well, usually when we’re done reading the primary content. Since the web from it’s beginning has been optimized for documents and articles most content has come to be in that format as well. Which has made our consumption of content in a manner reminding of reading articles in a magazine. However web publishers have essentially two choices, serving secondary content during or after a reading session.
Serving during a reading session is often done through links to parts of the content that might need background information to be understood entirely. For example Wikipedia is full of secondary content in the midst of their primary content. That model fits the exploring browsing patterns that their users utilize very good.
The model of linking secondary content inside the primary content does however have it’s drawbacks. It tares the user away from your primary content. Instead article-driven pages would be more beneficial of utilizing secondary content as appealing call to actions.
Sites that do not fall under the e-commerce label have different call to actions, often connected to participation or reading more content thus displaying more ads increasing the chance of clickthroughs.
The traditional footer
Traditionally web sites has had a very small footer, often no higher than a line height or two. Here you put the random material that your IA have not designed into the site, but you have to include. A very concrete example of this is the Yahoo footer.
The fat footer
So where do we put this secondary content on the web – especially now when we have so much and it can be so easily generated. One solution that is quite trendy is to create fat footers. That is footers that is almost and entire website in it’s own. Here are some screenshots of really fat footers.