There Is No Fold: The truth about website conversions, Part One
There is the longstanding idea that cramming material “above the fold” on your website will increase conversion rates . After all, who is going to scroll down to read anything else? The belief is that if the user does not see your calls to action or every piece of information as soon as they come to the site, they won’t convert.
Or so they say. But what if I told you this is a lie?
Morpheus: This is your last chance. After this, there is no turning back. You take the blue pill—the story ends, you wake up in your bed and believe whatever you want to believe. You take the red pill—you stay in Wonderland, and I show you how deep the rabbit hole goes. Remember, all I’m offering is the truth—nothing more.
– The Matrix (1999)
Take the blue pill, and you can stop reading right now. Take the red pill, and I’ll show you the truth about this absurd practice and how it doesn’t have as much of an impact on conversion rates as you think.
What is “The Fold”?
“The Fold” refers to the upper half of a newspaper. Before the Internet, newspapers were a primary channel for communicating information and reaching consumers. Since newspapers were sold flat and needed to be folded for better organization, the most appealing content was always put on the upper half of the paper. This was a particularly useful tactic because appealing content, such as a compelling headline or image, has a better chance of catching the viewer’s attention and leading to a purchase of the paper.
The Fold in the Internet Age
When the Internet was first created in the 90’s, the concepts of web pages and scrolling were foreign to many people. So foreign, that, the concept of putting the most appealing information “above the fold” made its way into web design. Screen resolutions were low (800 x 600 px) and thus space was limited. As a result, all the important content needed to be within that frame. If it wasn’t, there was a chance that a visitor wouldn’t discover it.
Fast forward 20 years later: the Internet is almost ubiquitous, screen resolutions are varied but have increased tremendously, and scrolling to view more content is a widely understood concept. In fact, a study conducted by CX Partners, a user-centric design company in the UK, has confirmed that users do scroll on pages and that cramming information “above the fold” is no longer relevant.
While the average screen resolution has increased to 1368 x 768 px, there has also been an increase in the number and types of devices which people can browse websites. As a result, relying on the fold for where to put information has become increasingly inconsistent and a poor method on how to position content on a site. With a number of variables affecting the placement of the fold, including screen size, screen resolution, browser size, and responsive design, the focus needs to change on how to drive conversions.
In The Matrix, Neo’s idea of what the Matrix is and how he interacts with it is fundamentally altered when he goes to visit the Oracle. During his visit, he has an insightful conversation with a child.
Child: Do not try and bend the spoon. That’s impossible. Instead only try to realize the truth.
Neo: What truth?
Child: There is no spoon.
Neo: There is no spoon?
Child: Then you’ll see that it is not the spoon that bends, it is only yourself.
– The Matrix (1999)
The spoon, in this case, represents the concept of overloading information above the fold. Much like the spoon in The Matrix, this web design fallacy is merely an illusion that only serves to limit you. If you can accept and understand the truth that cramming all of your information “above the fold” is not increasing your conversions, you can open your mind to learn what actually drives conversions on your site. You can only obtain power over something when you understand its nature.
Free your mind
Morpheus: You have to let it all go, Neo. Fear, doubt, and disbelief. Free your mind.
– The Matrix (1999)
Prioritize information around what is important, not the fold. It’s 2014 –users know how to scroll, so stop trying to squeeze all of your information above the fold. By trying to say everything at once, you will ultimately say nothing at all. Place only the most important messaging and calls to action above the fold. The information in this top section should be a preview of what’s to come on your website.
Users know how to scroll, so why not use that to your advantage? You can use your website to tell a story to your visitors and bring them through your conversion funnel. By using the right amount of copy and the proper calls to action in the right places, you can significantly increase the number of conversions on your site.
In Part Two of this blog post I’ll dive into more detail about what specifically drives conversions on a website and what classic mistakes you should try to avoid.
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