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You may have heard the term “Above the Fold” before, and if you aren’t a User Experience nerd like me, you probably would associate it with a newspaper. However, there has been a long debate in the digital world about our own “virtual fold”. If you’ve ever talked with a web designer, you’ve probably heard them refer to the bottom of the web browser as the fold.
So what’s the big deal about the fold? As I’m sure you know, the content placed above the fold in a newspaper is usually the most prominent and highlights what is most important to the reader. This is a practice that has long been used in the print world and many have carried it over to the digital world as well, but does the fold really matter? Are users scrolling down the page or are they just paying attention to what’s at the top of the page? Let’s see what the research says.
Huge, Inc., a leading digital agency, recently did a series of studies that tested separate elements of the user experience. One of those studies tested whether or not visual cues were necessary to lead a user to scroll below the fold. By testing the four types of designs below, they found that “participants almost always scrolled, regardless of how they are cued to do so”.
You may be wondering why that is, but as you do, I encourage you to think about the everyday interactions we have with technology. Many of the interactions we have are based on a continuous scrolling pattern. Think about it. Social media, text messages, mobile phone interactions—we are constantly scrolling through information and we don’t even realize it. In fact “on mobile, half of the users start scrolling within 10 seconds and 90% within 14 seconds”. These interactions have created a habit of scrolling that translates to many things including our interaction with websites.
So What Does That Mean?
Has what we’ve always thought about the fold been completely wrong? What the research tells us is that of the users that stay on the site, it is natural for them to scroll down the page. However, we have to grab the user’s attention for them to stay long enough to scroll. The Nielsen Norman Group explained it best by saying that “the fact that users scroll doesn’t free you from prioritizing and making sure that anything truly important remains above the fold.”
Here are some tips for conquering the scroll and keeping users engaged on your homepage:
- Use engaging imagery – We want to make sure that we are catching the user’s attention and imagery can be a great way to do that. Using scenes that relate to your services and the comfort they provide can be a great way of connecting with the user on the website and gives them a visual of what they can expect without them even realizing it.
- Keep things simple and organized above the fold – We want to engage the user and give them the information they need, but don’t want to overwhelm them. Keep this area for major calls-to-action and teasers. Show them what they can expect to find on the rest of the page without giving them all the information at once.
- Break up the homepage – A long page full of text is overwhelming to the user. Break the text up into easily digestible sections that have a clear hierarchy. When a user comes to your site, they should be able to quickly scan for the most important pieces and read further into what connects with them.
- Make calls-to-action clear – The user should have to go hunting for where they should go next. Your website content and design should lead them to your desired action. This could be a contact form or a button that links to a subpage, but these pieces should be easy to find and should grab the user’s attention.
How Does This Impact Your Website?
Users are scrolling—even if they don’t realize that they are —and though the fold is important, it is not the end-all be-all for your website. We must keep in mind that it is important to grab the user’s attention from the moment they land on the page, but we must also provide them with valuable information that encourages them to continue to engage with the content they are presented with. Long story short? Don’t feel like you need to cram everything at the top of the page and tell the users how to interact with your site. They do this all the time and if you have a well-designed site with engaging content, you’ll have nothing to worry about.
Not sure to start with your next website? Blue Corona uses a data-driven approach to marketing through research and analytics. Let us help you update your website with a design and functionality that will engage users and lead to higher conversions and leads for you! Contact us today.
About The Author: Betsy is Blue Corona's in-house Digital Marketing Specialist. When she’s not directing Blue Corona's corporate digital content campaigns she’s urban exploring with her wife, diving into the latest marketing trends, or teaching horseback riding lessons. Twitter: @educatedbets
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