Does the fold still matter?

Visitors spend 84% of their time above the fold

Does the fold — the first screen of a webpage — still matter?

Does the fold still matter?

Above the fold People spend most of their time on the first screen of a webpage — “the virtual equivalent of being above the fold” in a newspaper. Image by Olu Eletu

Yes, it does, according to the research:

  • Most visitors scroll through about 60% of a page, according to an analysis by Chartbeat. 10% don’t scroll at all.
  • When viewing ads, people look most (a median of 68%) at the page fold, according to a study by Google (PDF). After the fold, viewing drops off to a median of 40%.
  • The average difference in how users treat information above vs. below the fold,” usability expert Jakob Nielsen writes, having taken all the research into account, “is 84%.”

And now that more than half of your visitors are coming to your webpage via their 3.5-x-6.5-inch smartphone screens, the fold matters more than ever.

Location, location, location

So why do people look so much more often at the top screen?

Blame interaction costs, writes Amy Schade, a researcher for the Nielsen Norman Group.

How low do they go? The 100 pixels just above the fold were viewed 102% more than the 100 pixels just below the fold, according to an analysis of 57,453 eyetracking fixations by the Neilsen Norman Group. People look most often at the red sections, less often at the yellow sections and barely at the white areas. Image by the Nielsen Norman Group

Visitors can see the first screen without clicking — aka, paying an interaction cost. But they can see below the fold only if they scroll. And that’s an interaction cost.

Often, they’re just not that into you

3 ways to beat the fold

So how do you beat the fold?

  1. Pass the 1-2-3-4 test: Get the message across in the first four elements of your page.
  2. How low do they go?

    Pass the 1-2-3-4 test What can visitors learn from the first four elements on your page?

  3. Offer a menu on mobile: Tempt visitors below the fold with jump links, accordions and mini information architectures.
  4. How low do they go?

    Jump ahead Jump links, like these on the EPA site, give visitors an outline of the page, show them what’s below the fold, and make it easy to get to the section they’re looking for.

  5. Weed out the top: Don’t bury your message under sharing buttons, bylines and chrome.
  6. How low do they go?

    Don’t blow your top Get to the point faster on the first smartphone screen of your webpage, e-zine or blog post. HubSpot, left, focuses on sharing buttons and chrome; The New York Times app, right, gets to the point faster with content.

Win the 84/16 rule.

However you handle it, you must deal with the fold.

“We don’t go to a page, see useless and irrelevant content, and scroll out of the blind hope that something useful may be hidden 5 screens down,” Schade writes.

“What we find at the top of the page helps us decide to continue scrolling, navigate to another page, try another site, or abandon the task altogether.”

More for you

Make mine to go Learn to manage the fold and otherwise overcome the obstacles of getting the word out via smartphones. Join me at our mobile web-writing Master Class on June 12-13 in Chicago.

Save $100 when you book by May 12.

Register now.

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“Not a tiny tweak but new form of writing.”
— Eve Gelman, APR, director of marketing, communications, events and business development, Peddler’s Village Partnership