Imagine the ‘fold’ as being an imaginary line at the bottom end of your screen. The term ‘below the fold’ refers to the area of content on a page that appears below the visible end of that screen before a user needs to scroll down, as opposed to above the fold, which refers to all content immediately visible on screen on page load. On desktop/laptop screens, the amount of content that falls below the fold will naturally be lesser than on smaller mobile/tablet screens where the amount of immediately usable screen space is drastically reduced.
This less-visible area of content is often neglected by users. Heatmaps usually show that fewer clicks occur in content areas below the fold, particularly on homepages where actionable content (widgets, navigation, call to action buttons…) tends to be at the top of the page. And yet, when thinking about search results pages, it is hard to think of more content on the page as a problem. It’s all a question of display…
When organising content on any page, you must bear in mind the potential impact of being placed below the fold. Will users find their way to this content or completely bypass it? How much scrolling will be needed to get there? Is the top of your page signposted enough to entice visitors to scroll down in the first place? Can you find a way to minimise the amount of content that will sit below the fold?
In order to try and reduce the potentially negative impact of important content being placed below the fold, you can try a few well-known strategies. For example, use accordions in order to keep the vertical height of page elements in check whilst not losing out on the content itself. For product search results pages in particular, you can also use pagination and make sure you default the number of results showing on each page in a way that does not require too much scrolling by the user. Even more simple: try and keep your web designs as compact as possible. When it comes to UX, less is generally more.
Many recent publications tackle the fact that the concept of above/below the fold is becoming somewhat less important as users have a multiplicity of screen resolutions available to them. In this scenario, it is becoming increasingly hard for web designers to understand where the dreaded ‘fold’ will be. Studies have also highlighted that mobile users have been proven to be less averse to scrolling than their desktop counterparts, making the concept of the fold less relevant for smaller devices.
That being said, common sense should prevail. You should always assume that if you cannot grab your visitors’ attention with content at the top of your page, they are very unlikely to ever scroll further down. So keep the most engaging content highly visible at the top, and try to reserve the bottom of the page for more in-depth content that needs to be there, but whose audience will make the effort to look for it when they need to.
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