Be Bold: Don’t Be Afraid to Post Content Below the Fold

The fold, which originally referred to the upper half of a newspaper, has held influence over digital spaces as well and follows the same line of analysis as it applies in traditional print. The idea is that 80 percent of users’ attention is focused above the fold. That’s a bold claim that was very well supported when it was first brought out by Jakob Nielson, who holds a Ph.D. in human-computer interaction. Because of this it is often cited and is held in the forefront of many web designers’ minds as they approach a new project. The problem with holding this study as a golden rule this is that the studies come out of usage statistics from the 90s. The internet itself was still in its infantile stages, so it’s understandable that the idea of scrolling to find new information would less intuitive than it is today. Not to mention you’d be wasting precious minutes from your Free AOL Online trial CD. But the bigger tragedy is that people use this information to do the right thing for the wrong reasons. And this can lead to issues as you get deeper into a website design.

So what’s the problem?

The important thing to take away from the study isn’t that people will refuse to scroll, it’s that they’re impatient. But with good reason. The internet is overflowing with information, and your attention is a limited resource. It only makes sense to dedicate your attention to what matters most to you, and why scroll through a site that you already know missed the mark in your mind? What web developers should take away from this is that designs should guide attention through the most salient information as soon as is possible, but in a way that doesn’t overload the user.

It’s method, not madness.

This - Not This

Marketing Experiments showed that updating the home page design to one that used less calls to action, and placed their main call to action well below the fold, led to a 357 percent increase in monthly clients. And so, the importance of utilizing the fold doesn’t come from how much you can fit up there, or even placing your call to action there, but it’s the opening to a guided experience that keeps users engaged and know where they’re going next and why it’s important to them. This all goes to show that motivating your readership is far more important than treating them like lab monkeys who will follow a statistical trend if you follow the marketing formula that Mr. So-and-So put in place.

Design and messaging.

People who misunderstand the importance of the fold may fall into more pitfalls than just overstating their message or cluttering their design to cram all their calls to action in the top 700 pixels of their page. The fold still matters, but just to the extent that the information they see first matters. The important thing to carry over into the rest of your site design is that what you say next should expand upon when your opening statement was, and not restate it for the sake of filling space. Just as it isn’t practical anymore to build a website where users don’t need to scroll, it isn’t practical to have nothing of value left to say after you do scroll. Utilizing the entirety of your site’s layout will help keep your messaging clear, your readers engaged and your design clean. All of which will contribute to a more satisfying user experience and better conversions.

Adam Weaver is a designer and developer for Commexis. He is fascinated by the intersection of art and creativity.

Join the Commexis mailing list