The Question: Do people scroll below the fold?
Are my pages too long?
It seems like marketers have been asking about this question for as long as we have been building websites. 10 years ago there was a website called Life Below 600px by Paddy Donnelly designed to prove that people do scroll and read below the fold. Back then, the fold started from 600px onwards, when our typical screen resolution was only 800px by 600px. In Paddy’s website, you have to scroll past 600px to read the rest of the content, and judging by the number of comments at the bottom of the website, it’s fair to say that people do scroll.
Before we continue, let’s tackle another question first – what is the fold? The fold is a term used by web designers and marketers to describe a browser window’s bottom edge. “Above the fold” refers to web content that is visible above the bottom edge when a page first loads. “Below the fold” refers to the portion of the page that requires scrolling to see.
The Myth: Users don’t engage below the fold
Concerns over the page being too long stems from a fear that site visitors will not scroll and take the time to read the entire page. As a result of this fear, clients have come to us and asked to make text smaller so they can squeeze more content above the fold, or worse, remove important information so that the page doesn’t scroll.
This concept of concentrated attention “above-the-fold” is not as pervasive as it used to be. According to the analysis of eye tracking data from the Nielsen Norman Group, the closer a piece of information is to the top of the page, the higher the chance that it will be read.
Comparing 2018 and 2010:
– Users spent 57% of their viewing time above the fold, a sharp decrease from 80%;
– Users are more likely to scroll and designers have done a better job of inviting users to scroll;
– The pattern of a sharp decrease in attention following the fold remains the same.
In this article from Chuck Pearson, he goes further and argues that there is no fold. This is based on observations such as the analysis of data from 2 billion visits by Chartbeat, a data analytics provider, showing that:
– 71% of users scroll down a normal content page;
– 66% of attention on a normal media page is spent below the fold;
– People do scroll and spend time engaging with content below the fold.
Our Conclusion: Top of the page is still your most valuable screen estate
Given that users still spend a huge chunk of their viewing time above the fold, it is prudent to have the most important content at the top, such as having compelling headlines, hero imagery, an explainer video and important calls-to-action.
However there are occasions where visitors will have to read through testimonials, videos, or compelling long-form copy in order to absorb more information about your product or service, so that trust can be developed.
In such cases, it’s more important to have a long page that goes well below the fold, so that there is enough space for the content to earn the trust of your site visitors. Removing important content will be detrimental to the purpose of the page, and making the text smaller just makes it hard to read and less accessible to visitors with visual impairments.
- Establish the purpose of the page – Is this page designed to convey a product or service, and what are the ingredients you need to do so? Articulate the purpose of the page to a potential visitor in less than 150 characters.
- Decide on the most compelling content that would lead to an action – Ask yourself what is the most appropriate amount of content that you would need to communicate your message and convert site visitors into enquiries, registrations (to sign up), sales (to buy) or to take an action that you desire. Screen size is a premium, especially on a mobile device, so make sure your content is concise and impactful.
- Prioritise key information higher up the page – These could include a compelling headline, an explainer video or a hero image that communicates your brand in a succinct way. If you have a long article, consider extracting the highlights to be featured at the top of the page so that readers can have a quick glance of the key topics before committing their time to the rest of the page.
- Consider restructuring your site map – Your site architecture should make sense. If a page seems very long, would it help to split the content into two smaller sections, or would that simply lead to more clicks only to complete the same task? When you are structuring or labelling site sections, make sure the language is easily understood by your target users so people know where to look to find the information they seek.
- Test it with real users – Assumptions can be validated by conducting usability testing with your target users. Identify some tasks that you would expect these users to complete on your website and assess how easy or difficult it was for them to do so. Ask questions about their viewing and scrolling experience so as to gain insights about the length and clarity of your content.
- Track and optimise – Install tools like CrazyEgg (or alternatives such as Hotjar or Lucky Orange), which is an online application that provides you with usage tracking tools such as Heat map, Scroll map, Overlay, and Confetti to track how your visitors use your website. Collect data over a period of time, which could be used to continue optimising your content’s length and layout.