I suspect the percentage of people scrolling down the page is continuing to increase, but even if it's not, I don't think it's that important. The majority of people visiting a typical Web page don't "convert" anyway (that is, they don't do something that the page is designed to encourage). The key is to give a good experience to those who do want to engage and providing content below the fold is a legitimate way of doing that (and, as Neilsen notes, is better than 'paging.')
I understand that the author is trying to prove a point, but before I knew that I thought, "God, what a ridiculous page layout," and I was closer to closing the page because of it. I guess the moral of the story is that you can shove your relevant content "below the fold" if you like, but only if you're making a joke.
As for the 37Signals example, I think the article is exactly wrong on that one. The first section of that site has obviously been designed with specific intent - they're giving you descriptions of their products, and making the case for using them. It's all sales. They're not "telling a story", or waiting for you to reach the end of the page so they can tell you where to go next, those links at the bottom of the page are just there for people who forgot to click the links at the top of the page.
I'll agree that most of the "content" is below the fold, but that information is down there quite deliberately. Users aren't expected to scroll down, they're just catered to if they're not satisfied with the content at the top. Again, the content above the fold has been chosen with specific intentions - everything else is secondary to it. If anything, this example works against the point of TFA.
> Just put a bit of thought into creating quality content and presenting it in an interesting and readable way. This will make visitors stick around for a while and use that magic scroll button.
The Neilsen study does not and cannot, due to the subjective nature of what constitutes an interesting design, guarantee tested sites met these criteria.
In my experience (from doing a bunch of user testing on this sort of stuff) people scroll if 1) they have a visual cue that scrolling is needed/possible; 2) people are motivated enough by their need to carry on exploring.
In my case I saw this http://cl.ly/2S1B2P3X1Z1F0x3m0t0N - with no obvious cue for scrolling... spent a couple of seconds clicking random things. Left going "meh, wonder if the comments will explain this".
The problem of people just not understanding that scrolling was something that you did (yes - they really did exist ;-) has pretty much gone - thank goodness. And "the fold" isn't a thing any more because the proliferation of devices, display sizes and reading contexts means that there are dozens of different folds.
That doesn't mean you don't need to pay attention to them any more though - which is something I'm afraid a casual reader will get from this post. As others have already pointed out the 37signals page is very definitely not giving the fold the finger. It has many calls to action - both above and below the folds.... and they've paid attention to those folds (look how the biggest paying apps basecamp & highrise are above the lowest rez fold, look how the design breaks in the middle of paragraphs/images on the most common fold lengths to make it obvious to the user that there is more context if they scroll, etc.)
Yes - the idea of jamming everything up above the fold is dumb. It's the designers job to explain that this is an over simplistic reading of a design heuristic.
The advice to "Think about the rules before obeying them!" is good though :-)
The scrollbars are only one of many cues. I've observed lots of usability tests where there are scrollbars and people don't scroll because there is a natural break in the content. When the reader is unaware of the nature of the content they finish when they believe the content ends.
If you look at the 37signals page in contrast http://cl.ly/2W0w2M0w0m3z0d1D1G3r the entire bottom part of the screen is obvious "broken" by the bottom screen edge. Both the page ending in the middle of the text and the grey boxes that surround each option that are not completed are cues that there is more content. To even a very casual reader it's obvious that there stuff below that you can scroll to see - with or without scrollbars.
The 37signals' landing page is used to prove his point and the author is even claiming that they're "giving the fold the finger". Although it seems to me that 37signals is actually making great use of the fold to capture attention using big headings, high contrast, lots of colors and graphics. They've even thrown in a box that says "more praise from the press" so the visitors could feel challenged to find out for themselves. Then below 600 pixels, it's just a boring sales page. (The footer is really just a link section.)
So yes, people have learned how to scroll on web pages. But no, don't give up on making the fold awesome and informative.
The truth is that the fold is real, and it is important. What are you putting front and center in your design? It's a real question. Of course users scroll, but the top of the page does convey a first impression, and is thus more valuable real estate then the rest. Does that mean make every page a full-screen slide? Of course not, be sensible.
As a Developer, Online Marketing Manager and Digital Strategist at a web development agency for the last 5 years, I'd just like to say, AHHAHAHAHAHA... Oh jeez. Oh hell, that was a GOOD one.
It's not "put everything above the fold", but put the stuff that will make people want to read more or take action (including giving them teasers sufficient to visit other parts of the site, including the part of the page below the fold).
And 2 years ago:
I've been experimenting with giving user a bit of control before moving on by making "slides", they get a slide which is nothing but 970x600px, then they have to click something to move on to the next slide. Its all loaded in the dom so no refreshing. The site is more like a presentation than a big flyer.
Also, rethinking the refresh - instead of refreshing I slide to the next page and show something in between. It can be flashy design (http://jsfiddle.net/Rd92C/), or some info (http://jsfiddle.net/andys627/xRTfL/1/). Its a great place to show have undivided attention!
If I was a betting man I'd take that bet.
From looking at the stats on sites with a similar layout I'd guesstimate that only about 30/40% click above the fold - and some portion of those users will have scrolled and read the other content before doing so.
Caps lock applied for the importance of the point. Like many other comments are saying there is a wealth of evidence that points towards nearly 90% of users tending to only pay attention to what is above the fold, the other 10%, may read more. That 10% is important, hell they're your most engaged audience. But your design needs to only cater for the 10% and focus on the 90%.
So test your site, use a tool like http://www.crazyegg.com/ and look at scrolling heatmaps of your site. See if a page that draws users down is really working or not. Don't take somebody else's word for anything, just use studies, design cliches and common sense as a foundation for your own result based investigation into what layout serves your entire visitor-base best.
It's really that simple.