It used to be considered good practice to try and get all the homepage content into the viewable area of the browser, assuming that anything below the fold would be missed by your average user. This naturally led to suboptimal homepages with the most valuable content of the site vying for a coveted spot in the shop window.
It seems like this practice is now a thing of the past. The general web user is now credited with being willing and able to scroll to find content. This might be partly due to the advent and take up of the wheel mouse allowing people to quickly scan pages for the content they are looking for. This makes a big change to the browsing experience and some of the conventions that have gone into designing websites. One such revolution is the "mega footer".
The mega footer is quite simply a collection of deep links housed consistently at the bottom of every page of the site. These links can be the same on every page or contextual depending on the page you are browsing. This approach has been adopted by big sites that have either lots of information or lots of products to browse. The BBC, John Lewis, Waitrose, Handbag and many other sites all have mega footers. See the BBC example below:
The benefits of the mega footer are not limited purely to user experience - helping users find the content they want in the quickest possible way. The mega footer will help with search indexing as search bots will recognise the wealth and depth of content on the site and increase the page rank accordingly.
Indeed it appears that MSN are taking this revolution to the next level with a "mega header" approach giving people the ability to scan for particular content or products with the immediate feedback that they are in the right place.
It seems the benefits of the mega footer are clear but the big question for clients and digital agencies is how do we make these clusters of text links look aesthetically pleasing and on brand. The mega header is something I'm sure Jakob Nielsen would be proud of but until they can be styled up to look more visually appealing it's something I think the commercial sector might take a while to warm to!