How Does the Page Fold Affect Your Website?

While you may be aware of the page fold theory of a print newspaper, there is also a “virtual” page fold which exists on all websites which consists of the initially viewable area, or the part of your site which is viewable without the necessity of further action. Studies show that web users spend over ¾ of their time perusing information above the page fold, meaning that while they may scroll down, only twenty-something percent of the average reader’s attention travels below the fold. In the Web’s infancy, users often neglected to scroll down at all, looking only at the information which was immediately visible.

Critical Information Must Be Readily Apparent

For this reason, websites soon learned that if their most critical information was not visible immediately, users likely would not see it at all. By the late 1990’s, however, users were becoming more comfortable with the scrolling. Unfortunately, today’s web users have not progressed much beyond that initial comfort zone, and usability findings of the information below the fold remains fairly steady at 20-22%. So, while some users will scroll down your legal pages, remember that the average web user has a very limited attention span due to the busy-ness of day-to-day life.

Web users want to find the information they need quickly and efficiently, and don’t want to read any more words than they actually have to. This means that the space above the fold is the most valuable real estate on your website. That being said, if you have an extremely well-written, high-quality article full of information your readers will find incredibly helpful, it will likely still be better to present it as one scrolling article than to spread it across multiple pages. Even assuming your users will scroll due to the fact they find your article particularly compelling, you will still want to prioritize and ensure the truly important items appear above the fold.

Google’s Take on Information Located Above the Fold

January of this year saw a new Google algorithm which actually addressed above-the-fold user experiences. The basic theory of this algorithm states that if the information above the fold is so “busy” or crammed with information that visitors would have a hard time getting to the actual content the search results referred heads will roll. When users are unhappy about their web experience on a particular website, Google also becomes unhappy in an algorithmic kind of way and will certainly make their wrath known.

Further, if you have top-loaded your website with ads, you risk Google penalties. Any site which offers content buried under a pile of ads will be affected by the algorithm. Users want to see highly targeted content which effectively answers their most pressing question of the day immediately when they click onto a website and will resist scrolling down to find what they need.  Google wants to see your most important text and links early on so it can quickly confirm what your page is all about. To accomplish this, a great paragraph early in the page design can serve as an effective introduction to your site and your firm.

Above-the-Fold Elements Which are Crucial to Your Success

To ensure your potential clients remain firmly on your legal website, the information above the fold must be intriguing, interesting and visually appealing. A key technique for good user interface in above-the-fold material includes an accurate visual representation off your brand and your specific services—in a nutshell. Don’t forget to include a clear call to action which directs your user to the next stop; this will keep your user focused on the initial task at hand.


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