Does the fold still matter?

Visitors spend 84% of their time above the fold

Does the fold still matter?

Yes it does, say the researchers at the Nielsen Norman Group: The 100 pixels just above the fold were viewed 102% more than the 100 pixels just below the fold, according to an analysis of 57,453 eyetracking fixations that the usability research firm has tracked over the years.[1]

Does the fold still matter?

Above the fold People spend most of their time on the first screen of a webpage — “the virtual equivalent of being above the fold” in a newspaper. So put your most important content where their eyes are. Image by Olu Eletu

“Above the fold” equals the first screen of a webpage — “the virtual equivalent of being above the fold” in a newspaper, says Shel Holtz, principal of Holtz Communication + Technology.

And now that more than half of your visitors are coming to your webpage via their 3.5-x-6.5-inch smartphone screens, the fold matters more than ever.

So make sure your most important information shows up on the first screen of your webpage.

Location, location, location

Early studies showed that only 10% of web visitors scrolled, or looked below the first screen on a webpage. But that was back when we had 14.4K modems and had never seen a scrollbar before.

But now users do scroll, according to “king of usability” Jakob Nielsen. That’s probably because they’ve become more familiar with scrolling over the years.

Because that’s where their eyes are People look most often (red) at the upper left center of the first screen on a webpage, according to this aggregate heatmap shows 57,453 eyetracking fixations across a wide range of pages. They look less (yellow) on the rest of the first and the second screen of a page. They barely look at the white areas. Image by the Nielsen Norman Group

So why do people look so much more often at the top screen?

Blame interaction costs, writes Amy Schade, a researcher for the Nielsen Norman Group, in “The Fold Manifesto: Why the Page Fold Still Matters.”

Visitors can see the first screen without clicking — aka, paying an interaction cost. But they can see below the fold only if they scroll. And that’s an interaction cost.

So how often do they scroll?

The 80/20 rule: The Nielsen Norman Group

Call it the 80/20 rule: People spend 80% of their time above the fold and just 20% below the fold, according to eyetracking studies by the Nielsen Norman Group.

NNG has observed “countless” users in qualitative studies who “stopped scrolling before finding the information they needed, or worse, didn’t realize that there was more information waiting for them below the fold,” Schade writes.

17x more attention at the top: ClickTale

According to a ClickTale study of 80,000 page views:

  • Information near the top of the page gets 17 times more attention than the information near the bottom.
  • The most valuable real estate is near the top of the page, above the 800-pixel mark. (This was back in the day; don’t worry about the pixels so much as the trend.)
  • Visitor attention and page exposure peak at the 540-pixel line. Page exposure is the total amount of time visitors spend looking at an area of a page divided by the number of visitors who viewed that page. (Again, don’t get too hung up on the number as opposed to the trend.)
  • Visitor attention decreases exponentially as visitors scroll down a page. Visitor attention: the amount of time visitors spend looking at an area of a page divided by the number of visitors who viewed that area.
  • About 25% of the time, visitors don’t scroll at all.

ClickTale also found that:

  • About 75% of the time, web visitors do scroll to some extent.
  • About 25% of the time, visitors scroll all the way to the bottom of the screen.
  • Visitors also pay a lot of attention to the footer of the page.

And visitors scroll “relatively,” ClickTale learned.That is, in general, they scroll about halfway or three-quarters of the way through the webpage, regardless of the page size.

10% don’t scroll at all: Chartbeat and Slate

In an analysis of how visitors view content, Josh Schwartz, a data scientist at the traffic analysis company Chartbeat, found that:

  • 38% of webpage visitors bounce without engaging with the page.
  • 10% of people don’t scroll at all.
  • Most visitors scroll through about 60% of a page.
  • Most people scroll through an entire post made up of photos and videos.
  • About 66% of the time people spent on a page was below the fold. (Remember: Depending on the monitor size and story length, at least half and likely way more of web screens are below the fold.)

They’re just not that into you Many visitors don’t scroll at all; most visitors scroll about 60% through the page, and most visitors will scroll to the bottom — if your post is just photos or videos.

Schwartz also found that people tweet articles without reading them. Articles that got thoroughly read didn’t necessarily generate a lot of tweets. And articles that got retweeted a lot didn’t necessarily get thoroughly read.

Ad views drop off below fold: Google

The same thing is true of ads, according to a 2014 study by ThinkWithGoogle.com.[2]

Put the hot stuff up top The highest viewability for an ad is at the page fold. Then there’s a steep drop-off after that, regardless of screen size.

Researchers found the highest viewability at the page fold — a median of 68% —  followed by a steep viewability drop-off (a median 40%) after the page fold.

That’s a 41% difference — and it was true regardless of monitor size.

Aggregate difference: 84%

Put all these numbers together, and what to you get?

“The average difference in how users treat information above vs. below the fold,” Nielsen writes, “is 84%.”

So put your most important information above the fold.

But where’s the fold?

Where’s the fold?

So where’s the fold?

It depends … Content that shows up above the fold on a 30-inch monitor, according to Briggsby, can take as many as five screens on a 3.5-x-6.5-inch smartphone.

That depends. Unlike a newspaper, a webpage has no fixed fold location. The fold depends on screen size, browser and screen resolution.

Content that shows up above the fold on a 30-inch monitor, according to Briggsby, can take as many as five screens on a 3.5-x-6.5-inch smartphone.

So you need to get to the point on the top screen — even in mobile.

Take advantage of the fold.

So how can you take advantage of the first screen of a webpage, even of a smartphone?

  • Let readers know where they are on the first screen. “If they have to scroll even to discover what the site is, its success is unlikely,” writes information architect Milissa Tarquini.
  • Put above the fold any element, suggests web guru Eric Reiss, that:
  • Determines site behavior(changing text size, for example)
  • Orients the reader(the headline and breadcrumb navigation, for instance)
  • Helps the visitor on her journey(navigation, the search box and a sitemap link, maybe)
  • Is business-critical information(contact information, for instance)
Pass the 1-2-3-4 test

Pass the 1-2-3-4 test What can visitors learn from the first four elements on your page?

  • Pass the 1-2-3-4 test: Get the message across in the first four elements of your page.
  • Put the hot stuff up top: Compelling content can draw visitors in. Put the most interesting information at the top of the page, and visitors may decide to visit the bottom of the page as well.
  • Weed out the top: Don’t bury your message under sharing buttons, bylines and chrome.
  • Use the bottom of the page to help readers take the next step. You might include a call to action, links to related articles or a survey or poll, for instance.

“We don’t go to a page, see useless and irrelevant content, and scroll out of the blind hope that something useful may be hidden 5 screens down,” Schade writes. “What we find at the top of the page helps us decide to continue scrolling, navigate to another page, try another site, or abandon the task altogether.”

Draw readers further down the page.

And how do you tempt readers further down your webpage?

Climate Change impacts

Jump ahead Jump links, like these on the EPA site, give visitors an outline of the page, show them what’s below the fold, and make it easy to get to the section they’re looking for.

  • Use visual elements to draw visitors’ eyes down the page.
  • Draw them along with microcontent: Subheads and other online display copy get readers to read longer, skimmers to skim more
  • Offer a menu on mobile: Tempt visitors below the fold with jumplinks, accordions and mini information architectures.
  • Avoid false floors, or design elements that fool the visitor into thinking they’ve reached the bottom of the webpage.

“Users scroll when there is reason to,” Schade writes.

Give them a reason.

  • Get to the point faster

    Because web visitors spend 80% of their time above the fold

    Consider the numbers:

    • Web visitors spend 80% of the time above the fold, or on the first screen of a webpage, and just 20% below the fold.
    • Material near the top of a webpage gets 17x the attention of that near the bottom.
    • The average difference in how users treat information above vs. below the fold is 84%.

    Get to the point faster

    But where’s the fold? Content that shows up above the fold on a 30-inch monitor can take as many as five screens on a smartphone.

    Reach readers where their eyes are.

    So how can you reach your readers where their eyes are?

    At Writing for the Web and Mobile — our two-day hands-on web-writing master class on June 12-13 in Chicago — you’ll learn how to:

    • Pass the 1-2-3-4 test to put your message where web visitors' eyes are. Tip: Try this simple test on your smartphone for best results.
    • Make it a mullet — and 4 more steps for writing effective web heads. (No. 5 is the most important thing you can do to improve the ROI of your site.)
    • Optimize webpages for Google and humans with our three-part test. Note: If you're still using SEO tricks you learned in the 'oughts, Google may be penalizing your pages.
    • Don't drop the deck. Learn to make the most of the best-read element on your webpage.
    • Steal headline-writing tips from the BBC — the source of the best news heads on the web, according to Nielsen.

______

[1] Amy Schade, “The Fold Manifesto: Why the Page Fold Still Matters,” Nielsen Norman Group, Feb. 1, 2015

[2] “The Importance of Being Seen: Viewability Insights for Digital Marketers and Publishers” (PDF), ThinkWithGoogle.com, November 2014

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