Above the Fold or Bust

Early in online history (and as recently as the late 2000’s) web designers and marketers placed a significant amount of emphasis on the messages that appear in the upper third of the browser viewing area. The assumption was that any critical content placed above this imaginary, but powerful, browser line (AKA, “Above The Fold”) was your one and only chance to convert leads, communicate a message or make a sale. Granted, this logic was valid when the internet and web technology was in its infancy; painfully slow internet speeds and smaller screen resolutions limited the amount of digital real estate a marketer had to work with.

Fast forward to 2015. We’re now living in a technology age where the internet is used for endless amounts of communication. Users browse the web to collect bits of information or communicate with others in real time. Browser technology has advanced, internet speed has increased, and web users are becoming more educated on using browsers, apps and mining the world wide web. Social sites like Facebook and Pinterest have changed our online behaviors – and our mentality – and made the action of scrolling for information acceptable and even enjoyable. Users (like my wife) will scroll for hours down a never-ending Pinterest feed, getting lost in whatever shiny image catches the eye. Similarly, web users online behaviors are being trained by sites they use daily.

So why is the old “Above the Fold” argument still a topic of discussion among businesses and brands currently building websites? We’ve all moved past this archaic mandate, right? Well, not exactly. We’ve have plenty of frank discussions on this topic here at Hampton Creative, both internally and with our clients. It seems the traditional “Above the Fold” myth is still alive in people’s user-experience perception…and it’s our responsibility to educate and inform. Prepare for some website myth-busting!

Let’s take a look at the following example. The Boston Globe ran an A/B test on a conversion landing page to determine if conversion rate was different with the call to action above the fold, versus below the fold.

The common assumption is that the button at the bottom of the page would get a lower conversion rate than the button at the top of the page. In this study, however, the bottom button actually had a higher conversion rate. Users in this case were able to logically gather more information before deciding whether to subscribe, instead of first being pressured into pressing a button before the proper sales process has taken place. Modern users – your customers and clients – want to be educated not sold. It’s time the traditional “fold line” mentality take a permanent vacation, and go the way of dial-up internet service.

Higher click-through and conversion rates have nothing to do with content being above the fold or below the fold, and everything to do with how well the page layout directs the user through the education process. Answer the Who, What and How, and watch your conversion rates improve. Bottom line: Don’t believe the myth, and help spread the word – Above The Fold is no longer relevant.

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