Having worked as an SEO for various companies over the last decade, there have been constant battles between IT departments, Creative teams, Marketing teams, and Management. Everything is in constant flux and rarely does anyone agree on the changes that need to be made to a website. This will probably never change, unless the top-down management structure dies in the United States (Not happening anytime soon).
Historically, web content has been broken up like the archaic newspaper. The hierarchy began with the most important content above the fold on the front page. Menus and links guided users to 2nd, 3rd, and even 4th level pages that disseminate information in a similar structure to the home pages. As technology changed, we began adding some key elements including blog snippets or links to social media and some geniuses decided flash would be a great technology… for about 15 minutes.
Change Is Gonna Come
For the last few years something interesting has started happening. A few very talented designers and UX / UI developers have started decreasing the hierarchical structure historically seen in websites and have created content rich pages with more content and fewer links.
I’m not a true expert, but I believe three things happening in tandem played a role in the new concept that broke the idea that “above the fold” was necessary for marketing success.
Search Engine Optimization & Above the Fold
SEO is an obvious reason for increasing single page content (without stuffing). Keeping link juice on a single page, while creating high value content is one of many steps to help SEO success. By keeping the majority of content on a single page, you can optimize the page for better information with more “crawlable” content. This content if done with moderate design and UI input can create a compelling page with high link bait.
This link bait can be used in multiple facets. infographics, and other visually appealing high-value data is easily shared across social networks including facebook, twitter, and pinterest. These infographics are a great way to add value while educating visitors on a product or compelling piece of data.
Next Page Abandonment Syndrome
Call it advertising overload, information overload, ADD, disdain for clicking “next”, call it anything you want.. but it still exists. A study has shown that you lose an average of 33% of visits with each additional click they make. Users have lost tolerance and have started abandoning websites that have required clicks for additional content. In an age when the majority of web titles start with “Top 10 reasons why…,” Visitors expect at least the majority of the content to be available and accessible on the first page or bounces start to spike. Businesses have started using this method in their sites as well. Jacob Cass, a pretty well known designer, has a pinterest that highlights some of these UI’s.
Smart Phone Ubiquity
The third and most important reason for the death of above the fold importance is the mobile device. Smart phones and tablet saturation has made single page content more accessible and in some cases more usable than previous methods of design. It is easy to scroll up or down to consume a webpage than it is to zoom in on the next button on a site.
As mobile devices reach critical mass for internet browsing, accessibility and design are becoming the most important aspect of content delivery online. Having your high value content readily available in a format that is easy to read, understand, and react to is vital for the next generation UI / UX designers.
Above The Fold Focus Is Still Necessary
Even though the legacy attention to above the fold details is fading, there are still key elements that should remain in tact to increase usability, conversions, and customer service. Key contact information including a phone number is generally accepted to be placed in the top-right corner of a website. This best practice is still common, specifically for a local business, or a localized landing page where conversions are heavy on the site. For a corporate, or portfolio site, this information is less necessary. Other important details should include a logo to let the visitor know they’ve reached the correct website, and a high-value statement to keep them on site and wanting to learn more. Strong Call to Actions with well placed visual content including videos, or non stock photography images are a great way to entice visitor interaction.
Some Below The Fold Inspiration
Let me know what ya’ll think, is Above the Fold really less important than it used to be?