A couple of weeks ago user experience guru Jacob Neilson wrote an article about user attention above and below the fold.
In a nutshell he says:
… users will scroll below the fold only if the information above it makes them believe the rest of the page will be valuable.
I totally agree.
On the other hand, a few people have pointed out to me a recent article by CX partners in the UK that states the fold isn’t very important anymore. They say:
We see that people are more than comfortable scrolling long, long pages to find what they are looking for. A quick snoop around the web will show you successful brands that are not worrying about the fold either.
I was thinking about the two articles which seem to be contradictory. After digesting all of the data, I have to say that both parties are right – they are just missing a crucial piece of information – the context in which the visitor is viewing the page.
If I’m on Amazon.com viewing a list of products, of course I’ll scroll because I know the information I want is below the fold.
If I just clicked on an ad and have landed on a site or page that I have never viewed before, my first internal question is “am I in the right place” and only after my internal dialog says yes, will I think “do I need to scroll to find what I am looking for”.
In the second scenario, it’s crucial to have above the fold all of the information the visitor needs in order to know they are in the right place.
So, in summary, if we combine the two opinions and add the missing ingredient – context, we get this (my version):
People are more than comfortable scrolling long pages only if the information above the fold, or their existing knowledge, makes them believe the rest of the page has what they are looking for or will be valuable.
On a side note, the CX partners article does indeed address the issue of bad design leading to a user not scrolling due to them not realizing there is more information below the fold, but that’s a different scenario.