352 Inc. / Marketing / October 13th, 2009

Why "above the fold" doesn't matter on the Web

A new study attempts to answer the age old conflict between, above and below the fold content.  Using a series of heat maps (essentially tracking where and how often a user looks at a web page) CX Partners were able to show that content below the fold is not necessarily a bad thing to be avoided at all costs.

Noting that this flies in the face of 800+ studies in the last 6 some odd years makes this study particularly is important to understand.  Not quite as earth shattering as Galileo’s revelation, but one can’t help but see how it could tear down our previous conceptions about how architecting a site is approached.  Just looking at several top internet sites with a lot of content below the fold, it’s clear the fold does not stop readers from scrolling down.  BBC, Amazon, New York Times top the list.  Given there high status that’s not particularly surprising.  User’s know they will find what they want on Amazon if they hunt around a bit.  However, if the user is unfamiliar to a site, conventional wisdom tells us their limited attention span steers them away from scrolling to investigate further.  No immediate captivation?  Off to the next site. Not necessarily.CX Partners research highlights two important factors in their results.  First, visual cues in the design that indicate there is content below the fold encourages users to scroll.  Many sites do a bad job of showing these cues.  Second, users pay close attention to the size of the scroll bar.  As long as the scroll bar is a reasonable size scrolling is very likely.

What makes you view content below the fold?