There’s been a myth going around for a long time that implies we should keep everything in web design “above the fold”. That might have been true back in the nineties, but in 2014, those old web design rules no longer apply.
While it’s important to keep certain strategic elements in the top half of a website that communicates to users immediately what your site is about, it’s good practice to entice the audience to want more. Invite users to continue the experience by providing them with compelling content that keeps them interested.
Above and Beyond the Fold
The term “above the fold” originated with newspapers and refers to the top-half of the front page that is “above the fold” of the paper. It’s the portion of the paper that editors pay the most attention to because it sells the paper – the section with the BIG story and emotionally charged image that grabs our attention.
In web design, “above the fold” refers to the portion of the web page that a visitor can see when they first arrive on a website without needing to scroll. We’ve known for some time now that user interest exists beyond the kingdom of the fold, and that users will scroll to get additional information. As a matter of fact, scrolling comes so naturally most users don’t even realize when they are doing it.
Let the Good Times Scroll
We scroll all day long on our touchscreens, happily spinning our mouse wheels at ease and eagerly let our fingertips do the browsing on our laptop mouse pads. We don’t even think about it. This is because it’s easier and less time consuming to scroll then to go somewhere else, click, and wait for a page to load. In April 2011, Apple even removed the scrollbar from Mac OS X.
The myth that users won’t scroll to see anything below the fold is unfortunate, especially for users. Scrolling is simply better for usability. Websites that are designed with the intention of keeping everything “above the fold” will soon become outdated as the amount of users accessing websites on mobile devices continues to outnumber the traffic coming from desktops. According to CNN Money, 55% of usage now comes from mobile devices, overtaking desktop usage for the first time ever.
It’s no surprise that people scroll when they are on pages they want to be on. Content is king for more than just search engine optimization purposes. Engage the user, and they will be happy to stay, read and yes, they will scroll.
Here are some other truths to help debunk the above the fold myth and support the scrolling vs. clicking movement for improved user experience:
- Scrolling is a continuation (faster), clicking forces the user to make a decision (slower)
- No waiting for pages to load, users just scroll to the next section to keep the reading flow intact
- Fewer, longer pages are a better approach for users
- Scrolling is more touch screen friendly (we do a whole lot of scrolling on our devices these days)
- 66% of attention on a normal media page is spent below the fold ( more statistics on scrolling and usability here)
- Most popular websites embrace the scroll (think Amazon, Facebook and Google)
Some Elements That SHOULD Stay Above the Fold
Scrolling and clicking aside, there are some strategic website elements that should have an existence above the fold. When visitors come to your website they shouldn’t have to search for a phone number or navigation. Make it intuitive and wonderful things will happen. These are key website elements that should be “above the fold”:
- Contact Information
- Logo and Company Name
- Search Bars
Striking a Healthy Balance
There are trade-offs between clicking and scrolling. Scrolling is better for usability, however clicking is better for analytics and search engines. Don’t force yourself to follow web design rules that are no longer relevant. Know what’s important to your target market and use a combination of both to create a healthy, well balanced user experience. Knowing the pros and cons of scrolling and clicking will help you decide the best direction for your website.
To learn more about scrolling benefits and effects, check out Parallax Scrolling in Modern Web Design