Website Design Strategy: Above the Fold

Why Should Above the Fold Matter in Your Website Design Strategy

There’s always a lot of back-and-forth between marketing companies in regards to the importance of having items – especially calls-to-action – above the fold when talking website design strategy. While the debate will never cease on the call-to-action front, there’s no denying that what goes above the fold of your website should be compelling and thought-provoking. It’s the most coveted space on your website. If you have a website or are just beginning to design one, you need to know why “above the fold” is so crucial.

What Does “Above the Fold” Mean?

Back before smart phones and computers, newspapers served as one of the primary ways to disseminate information. Stories on the upper half of the front side of the newspaper were called “above the fold” and were considered to be the top stories of the day.

In the digital age, “above the fold” refers to what you see on your website before you click or scroll. All other content that requires scrolling is considered to be “below the fold.”

Why the Fold Matters

Just like newspapers, your website should showcase its most important information at first glance. Why? Some people simply won’t scroll; that means that they will judge your entire website based on what they see on that first screen. Additionally, research shows that people have attention spans of less than 8 seconds. Even if they do scroll, there’s a good chance that they won’t make it to the bottom of your home page.

Things to Consider When Planning for Above the Fold

Keep in mind that the content above the fold is the first impression of your business.

Before deciding what you want to display, consider:

  • Who is looking at your site. By doing some research, you can determine if most viewers are looking at your site from a computer, tablet, or mobile phone. By knowing this level of detail, you can gear your home page to the audience viewing it the most.
  • How you’re going to convince them to scroll down. In order to convince people to scroll, you have to engage them with good copy and great graphics. Give them the most critical information about your business above the fold, but lure them into wanting to see – or read – more.
  • How you can avoid a false bottom. Many sites appear to end at the fold. Make sure that some of your content is cut off (indicating there’s more below) or that you have arrows or graphics telling viewers to scroll down. If people think there’s nothing below the fold, they won’t even try to scroll.

The Great Call-to-Action Debate

Jakob Nielsen, a world-renowned web usability consultant, notes that only 20 percent of viewers will read below the fold of your website, with the likelihood of them scrolling all the way to the bottom almost nonexistent. Because of this, many companies argue that your call-to-action should be above the fold. Others say that it’s too pushy to put a call-to-action above the fold, and that you need to worry more about convincing people to scroll than having a call-to-action front and center.

What do we think? Well, we believe that every business is unique. A call-to-action above the fold may not seem pushy for one business; it might actually seem necessary. On the other hand, research has proven that people will scroll if they think there’s more interesting content to see and read. Additionally, research has also shown that people are more willing to scroll than click.

It’s more important to worry about summarizing what you want your audience to know above the fold – and engaging them.

It Always Goes Back to Content

We’ve said this on many, many occasions: Content is King. The best websites are designed with their target audiences in mind – knowing what potential customers want to hear and how they want to hear it. If you can achieve all of that in that precious space above the fold, then you’ll be on your way to a successful and rewarding website.

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