100 Things You Should Know About People: #27 — We go below the "fold"

A long web pageFor the last year or so there has been a heated debate about “the fold”. The fold is the idea that there is a place on a web page that is the bottom edge of what people will see when they look at the page in a browser, and that in order to see anything below that line, the visitor has to scroll down the page. This concept comes from newspapers — there is content on a newspaper page (especially the front page) that is below where the paper folds. In the newspaper world there has been interest for decades and maybe even centuries, at this point, about what to print right above the fold, right below the fold, and right on the fold. This concept bled over to websites in terms of what shows on the screen without scrolling.

What’s the big deal about the fold? — For many years a guiding principle of web and content design has been: If it’s important make sure it’s above the fold, because visitors may not scroll and see more. But lately marketing people, user experience professionals, and others have been questioning this principle. Certainly there is often a lot of material that is below the fold, and people seem to be clicking on it.

Want to see a visual example? — At iampaddy.com there is an interesting visual example. Here is a short video I made from the iampaddy blog that makes the point that maybe people really will scroll:

So do we worry about the fold or not? — I believe it still holds true that the most important content should be above the fold, and that if it is above the fold then it is most likely that people will see it. BUT, if it’s below the fold that doesn’t mean people WON’T see it. Ok, not a definitive answer I know, but the best we can do right now with the data we have (stay tuned… I plan to do some research of my own on this topic).

What do you think? How concerned should we be about whether information and links fall below the fold?

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Posted in usability, visual design, web design
7 comments on “100 Things You Should Know About People: #27 — We go below the "fold"
  1. Alysson says:

    The importance of what appears above the fold can’t be denied, but what is also important to consider is the likelihood of that which appears above the fold actually influencing visitors scroll on down the page. People are far more likely to remain on a page and continue scrolling down as long as the content and information are of interest or of use to them in some way.

    It stands to reason that remaining on a page or clicking through to another page within the same site is preferable to going off in search of another site altogether. Continue providing people with useful information within every section of the page visible within the current browser window and they’re more likely to keep scrolling to find the next valuable nugget of information waiting for them as they scroll.
    .-= Alysson´s last blog ..A Knockout Blow To American Democracy, Courtesy of the United States Supreme Court =-.

  2. Ingo Bultschnieder says:

    I agree that the fold doesn’t have the importance it had years ago. I read the blog article as well and of course i scrolled down. But i think it’s demotivating when the user realizes that he can scroll down very far (i didn’t read it to the end i must confess) and probably won’t go until the end. So it is still important to be above the fold or at least near to it and not offer endless pages.
    One thing is still important i think: make it obvious, that there is a fold. If the screen looks like “that’s all”, then there is the danger that some user won’t scroll. But if there is text for example that is not finished above the fold, the user realizes that it will go on further down and will scroll i am convinced.

  3. Karl Gilis says:

    I fully agree with Ingo.

    Whether people scroll or not, depends on:
    – the type of page
    – the type of website
    – visual elements on the page

    One of the best articles with lots of nuance, can be found at http://webusability-blog.com/page-fold-myth-or-reality/

    Conclusion of the article: The page fold is not a myth. It exists and affects people’s surfing behaviour.

  4. Joe Leech says:

    Hey Susan,

    We did an audit recently on all the user tests we’ve done over the last year to see what effect the fold had:
    The myth of the page fold: evidence from user testing
    http://www.cxpartners.co.uk/thoughts/the_myth_of_the_page_fold_evidence_from_user_testing.htm

    joe
    .-= Joe Leech´s last blog ..Adding an extra dimension to UX with eyetracking =-.

  5. Osoosaar says:

    As far as users are concerned, every page must justify its claim on their time. If page doesn’t do that immediately and clearly, they go elsewhere.

    This is closely related to the concept of “information scent” and the theory of information foraging. Users have to feel that they are “getting warmer” in terms of information they are looking for.

    Users will not scroll if there is no clue that they might find what they are looking for.

    But largely “It depends” on many things. As Karl pointed out in earlier comments.

    Cheers!

  6. Olavi Soosaar says:

    Jakob Nielsen latest study(22.04.10) on “Scrolling and Attention”

    Summary:
    Web users spend 80% of their time looking at information above the page fold. Although users do scroll, they allocate only 20% of their attention below the fold.

    He also addresses the concept of “information scent”.

    I recommend reading it.

  7. Tom says:

    I think that the concept has some merit, but having worked in web design for a while, I think that it is over-rated.

    If you have interesting content, people will go below the fold because they are interesting. And ask any marketer, you need to sell your product, which takes information. So, if you have interesting information above the fold to keep the reader following and you end with the conversion metric, I believe that you could actually increase clicks below the fold.

1 Pings/Trackbacks for "100 Things You Should Know About People: #27 — We go below the "fold""
  1. [...] cite excellent examples of why to place information below the fold including a favorite, What Makes Them Click and the article the author sited from I Am Paddy.  One the best explanations for the history of [...]

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I'm a Ph.D. psychologist and I write and videoblog about how to apply psychology and brain science research to understand how people think, work, and behave. For more information about me and about the Weinschenk Institute, check out the the Team W website.

Susan Weinschenk, Ph.D.
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