Above or below the belt?

OMG; the title has been wrongly typed – it should read “Above or below the fold”.

Traditionally, a website’s initial impression on its users depends a lot on its “above the fold” content. Nevertheless, with the users’ interaction evolving over time, the traditional usage of the fold seems no longer so relevant.

However, this post digs deeper on the subject, while providing you with snippets that will speak for themselves.

What does “Above the Fold” mean

To be precise, ‘Above the Fold’ refers to the area of a web page that becomes visible sans any scrolling. Since it is the initial view that visitors encounter on a web page, website designers and developers pay maximum attention to what should appear on this area, i.e. above the fold.

Incidentally, the term ‘above the fold’ is primarily linked with newspaper reading process. Newspapers, while on display and sale, are usually folded in half at the middle for the sake of convenience. As a result, intending buyers, at a first glance, can take a peek only at the top half of the page. As newspaper publishers are fully aware of this phenomenon, they put the most relevant stories and graphics in this area. During the early days of website design, this concept was carried over from newspapers to websites.

Above or below the fold 26

Does a website’s Conversion Rate Optimization has anything to do with Above the Fold content?

Every time a visitor lands on a web page, he/she anticipates finding the information the person is looking for post-haste.   Websites that fail to provide this service die a natural death. Needless to say, this vitally important information must appear ‘above the fold’ forthwith as otherwise the visitor will leave.

By providing the relevant information and user-actions ‘above the fold’ the website will be able to keep the visitor engaged – from the very beginning. What’s more, this service or phenomenon, whatever you may call, will enhance the chances of the visitor exploring the content better. So, in a way, it will improve the CRO.

What tradition has told us?

If you take a look at website during the 90s and early 2000s, you are sure to observe all the elements appearing on the web pages’ above the fold area. The theory that worked under the practice proclaimed that anything placed below the fold will escape the attention of the viewer for certain. If you do not believe me, check Apple’s website from the 90s. Also, many websites limited themselves to near about 600 pixels in height. Write ups on sites spanned multiple pages that required users to click, instead of scrolling to read all.

What caused this practice to exist for so many days?

At that time, scrolling was not so intuitive for most users since navigating down a website was a onerous game (on account of clumsy scroll bars).

Jacob Nielson, from the Nielson Norman Group explained this further: “This reluctance to scroll made sense at the time, because people were used to having computers show all their choices. Dialog boxes, CD-ROM multimedia shows, and HyperCard stacks all worked that way, and didn’t require scrolling.”

Why this practice has become irrelevant now?

The very simple reason is that users now scroll. Scrolling down a site on PCs is now breeze. With effortless single-finger movement of the scroll wheel of the mouse or the double-finger slide on a touchpad, it is almost a fun to scroll. Moreover, increased usage of mobile devices has popularized scrolling further.

While using a smartphone or a tablet, users scroll down routinely now. With the smaller screen size of the devices, users normally presume a web page to provide more information below the fold.

As the limitation — that users will rarely view below the fold content — is no more in place, websites don’t have to constrain themselves to put all the relevant issues above the fold.

Moreover, the whole concept of the fold becomes enigmatic when multiple screen sizes have become quite common all over our lonely planet.

And lastly, since there are so many devices with such a wide variety of screen sizes available worldwide, it is almost impossible to determine where the fold lies.

Incentives are sometimes need  to encourage scrolling

To scroll down a web page, the users need a compelling reason. And this compelling reason cannot lie far down the web page. Most users would bounce before even reaching that point. The users must be kept intrigued right from the start — above the fold.

A web page’s above the fold should be promising and also intriguing. Some sites start with story ‘above the fold’ and then continue it ‘below the fold’. This makes the user to scroll down and browse through additional content. As users will be engaged for a longer time, the conversions are set to rise.

You can additionally use the above the fold space to highlight your brand image.

By positioning certain branding elements above the fold, you can clearly project yourself as a differentiated brand in the industry.

Snippets in favor of ‘Below the Fold’

“Positions slightly below the fold between 600 and 1000 pixels typically have both high viewership and high engagement” — Chartbeat.

“66% of attention on a normal media page is spent below the fold” — Chartbeat.

“For a continuous and lengthy content, like an article or a tutorial, scrolling provides even better usability than slicing up the text to several separate screens or pages” — UXMyths.

The most clicked link on the homepage is at the very bottom” — Milissa Tarquini.