Is 'the fold' still a thing in today’s scrolling and skimming culture?




The Mobile Spoon - Is 'the fold' still a thing in today’s scrolling and skimming culture?


We skim through text and scroll naturally through endless content, so does it mean that ‘above the fold’ is finally dead? Or is it still relevant in 2019?
As someone who instinctively scrolls, I agree with Josh Porter’s statement that:
“Scrolling is a continuation, clicking is a decision.”

If indeed this is the case, then there’s no need to aggressively squeeze in the content above the fold. Designers can triple the whitespaces, use giant images without worrying about pushing some key elements below the fold. 
Unless, of course, the fold is still a barrier...
I decided it’s time for me to check, and clear this question (for myself mainly), once and for all. 

Here's what I found:

Search results:

  • According to Google (based on the latest study I could find): ads appearing above the fold had a 73% visibility, whereas those below it had just 44%. A dramatic difference.
  • According to Chitika, after analyzing over 22 million impressions, ads placed over the fold showed 44% higher click rate than those placed below.
  • HubSpot’s research showed that 75% of users never scroll past the first page of search results.
  • MarketingSherpa study (with eye-tracking heat maps) found that ads placed above the fold were seen by 60% of users, while ads below the fold were seen by only 25%.

Hmm… theories aside, the numbers clearly show that the fold is alive and kicking.
But wait, it gets even trickier since search results show much more than just links these days: 
  • 12% of Google’s search queries include featured snippets (source).
  • Many search queries show videos or images before the links.
  • And of course: Ads.

As a result:
  • 34.4% of all desktop searches result in ‘no click’ (source).
  • 62.5% of all mobile searches result in ‘no click’ (source). 

When it comes to search results, the fold still makes a big impact, and due to the evolution of Google’s Search Results, what used to be positioned at 3rd or 4th place and used to appear above the fold - got downgraded and pushed below the fold.


Websites: 

Nielsen Norman Group conducted 2 pieces of research regarding the fold: one in 2010 and one in 2018.
  • In 2010, 80% of the users viewing time was spent above the fold.
  • In 2018 that number was dramatically changed to 57% (source).
BTW, 74% of the viewing time was spent in the first two screenfuls (first 2 pages of the content), which means that users did scroll a bit, but didn’t check the whole page. 
57% of the users viewing time is spent above the fold
74% of viewing time is spent in the first two screenfuls

 Their conclusion was: 
People scroll vertically more than they used to, but new eye-tracking data shows that they will still look more above the page fold than below it.
Clicktale conducted a study based on 100K webpage views and came to the conclusion that “the fold is not dead”.

Their conclusion was that when the major page elements or main CTAs were below the fold, the KPI's of the page dropped.
“When the most important content is not visible upon arrival - visitors are less likely to proactively search for it.”
Another example investigated the impact of a cookie notification, pushing the CTA button below the fold. This resulted directly in a 3% higher bounce rate and a 4% lower click-through rate.



84 cognitive biases you should exploit to design better products

Learn how to take advantage of cognitive biases to increase your product's conversion rates, engagement level, and retention. A must-read article for every entrepreneur and product manager dealing with UX, UI and B2C products.



Manage the on-screen keyboard like a pro

10 mobile keyboard rules for designers, developers, QA engineers and product managers that will help you avoid common mistakes and streamline the use of virtual keyboards in your mobile apps.



App Stores:

In the post, I shared the process we went through, moving key messages to the top of the screenshots, and to the first 2 screenshots.
We made those changes because apparently app store visitors do not scroll through the content below the fold:
  • 60% of visitors don’t scroll beyond the fold of each product page (source: Storemaven).
  • Only 40% of visitors swipe past the first 2 screenshots (source: iOS App Templates). 
  • Only 13% of visitors scroll through the full list of app screenshots (source: AppAgent).
  • Less than 4% of visitors tap on the screenshots to enlarge (source: AppAgent).
So the fold clearly plays a significant role in the way app store visitors browse through apps. 
With such stats in mind, we had to redesign our app store product page, shorten and enlarge our screenshots text, and place the key message in the first 2 screenshots.
Read more about it in here.
Redesigning the App Store product page screenshots - lessons learned
  

Conclusion: 

Yes, people scroll more easily than they used to, but the fold is not dead, content above the fold is still a key to hook users or visitors.


Practical Tips

So yeah, people scroll much more than they used to, but the fold is here to stay. 
Users make a decision on whether to continue based on what they see above the fold, and that content serves the purpose of drawing them into scrolling further down the page.
Here’s what needs to be placed above the fold:
  1. Navigation elements and search
  2. Main visual element (hero image and logo)
  3. Main headers (main text, explainer copy) - designed to capture the visitors' attention and motivate them to further explore the page/app
  4. CTA button
  5. Visual hints that more content exists below the fold (to encourage scrolling)
  6. For pages with endless content (i.e. social feed) - the beginning of the content has to begin over the fold
  7. For e-commerce website or app, make sure to include the following: special offers, recent orders and basket/checkout links
  8. For a product page, include the price, rating summary and product photo(s)
Make sure your CTA button is placed above the fold
Make sure your CTA button is above the fold

Make sure notifications and prompts are not pushing your most important content below the fold
Make sure notifications and prompts are not pushing your most important content below the fold

Avoid the illusion of completeness by placing scrolling hints above the fold
Avoid the illusion of completeness by placing scrolling hints above the fold

Comments

Gil Bouhnick The Mobile Spoon
Anonymous said…
Thanks! Perhaps you could explain what is "The fold"? it’s not clear for someone who is not familiar with the term
Gil Bouhnick The Mobile Spoon
Gil Bouhnick said…
The fold where the newspaper used to be folded, and what used to be printed above the fold would be shown when you look at all the newspapers and select which one to buy.

In the digital world, the fold is where the end of the first screen is located, anything below the fold requires scrolling and therefore often less accessible.