Above the Fold Is Dead. Long Live Above the Fold!
There used to be a well-known website axiom that the most important content on a page, especially the home page, should live “above the fold,” or putting important stuff at the top monitor-sized section of a web page. Sadly, this led to people stuffing the top of their page with every bit of detail they wanted to tell a customer. Imagine an elevator pitch where the person is telling you every minute detail of their company’s services.
Not only did it give us a lot of ugly websites but it felt like they were all yelling at us. It was hard for designers to argue for good design at the time because the numbers backed up “above the fold.” People didn’t like scrolling. Well, times have changed.
A big shift in our thinking came by way of smartphones saturating our lives. You were already playing a guessing game in trying to figure out what size monitor most users were looking at but with the advent of smartphones and tablets, it became impossible. Additionally, touch screens made scrolling a more enjoyable experience. Traditional computers got bigger and more varied monitor sizes and scrolling mice improved (try to buy a mouse without a scroll functionality now).
Maybe the most important change, however, came from Google’s ever-changing algorithm for ranking websites. Google started placing less importance on keywords (which webmasters could just stuff to rank higher), and started placing more importance on user engagement. Where webmasters would stuff the page’s text with keywords to satisfy Google’s old algorithm, now they were forced to actually make visitors want to stay. If users spend time on your site, as opposed to “bouncing” back to Google, that’s a huge boost to your ranking. Overwhelm or visually scream at your users at your own risk.
Scrolling is second-nature when surfing on the web now, and it’s almost impossible to find a well-designed site these days that doesn’t have a decent amount of scroll. We’ve grown accustomed to seeing some kind of parallax or visual effect to make the scrolling experience even more enjoyable. Many tell a story through small chunks of conversational, engaging text and images on the way down (or to the right in some cases). Before combining the entire site into one scrolling page, however, keep in mind that too much scrolling can still be a bad thing. It’s really a subjective judgment call but the sweet spot seems to be around five page heights for a typical commercial site, and again we’re guessing viewport size here so testing on a variety of devices to find what feels right is a must here.
You Never Get a Second Chance…
You might be thinking, “Yeah but that first impression when the home page loads is still important,” and that’s true, it’s incredibly valuable. But now it’s about grabbing the visitor’s attention with something eye-catching and with short, sweet text. The goal is to delight the user and to make them want to explore and learn more about you. The above-the-fold trend is minimal text and lots of negative space, with a catchy line or two that tries to entice the user.
In conclusion, make your important content easy to find but don’t be afraid of scrolling. Use that above-the-fold real estate to say hello to your visitor and show them something they’ll enjoy. Instead of dumping every service and deal on them right away, guide them through your site in a relaxed manner, like you would if it was a real-life conversation. Search engines will love you and so will they. As always, if you’re looking for the pros to help you with user experience or web design, get in touch with us at VisionSpark, and thanks for reading!