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Do users scroll?

I read a blog published last year from CX partners that suggests that you do not need to worry about the page fold at all and that users scroll.

Although they give valid points and tips, I feel that, like all UX, this is just too simplistic and depends more on the website and the audience.

Any thoughts?

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I was simply going to point to that exact article. :P –  Philip Morton Mar 16 '10 at 22:17

11 Answers 11

The way I understand the article is that you still want your most important content at the top where it'll most likely catch attention first. What they're arguing against is the old notion that everything must be above the fold because novice users don't know how to scroll. Well, they do, at least now. Frankly, we shouldn't be surprised. The fold matters, but it isn't a solid barrier. Kind of like clicks matter, but three clicks isn't some magic limit.

Similar observation made by Chris Fahey, also discussed in Smashing.

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+1. I was going to say the same thing. –  Allan Caeg Mar 17 '10 at 1:43
    
I'm not sure the person who I met on the weekend who does not as yet own a computer knows to scroll the page ... just saying. –  Nathanael Boehm Mar 17 '10 at 4:06
    
@Boehm, Yeah, I shouldn't overgeneralize. Certainly someone who is truly new to computers can't be expected to understand a scroll bar. Like the mouse, it's such a basic component, it's too easy to take it for granted. –  Michael Zuschlag Mar 17 '10 at 11:46
    
+1- 15morechars –  Glen Lipka Mar 17 '10 at 15:42
    
@Boehm well, we usually don't design websites for people without computers :D Much in the same way that we ignore old people when designing something for a young target audience. Realize I'm moving offtopic here but so does @Boehm... –  Haakon Halvorsen Apr 30 '10 at 6:56

I still believe Jared Spool's As the Page Scrolls is the simplest, most concise fold-debunking piece out there.

But, inevitably, you can't completely ignore the fold -- if the user isn't convinced, enticed, or otherwise cajoled into scrolling, then there is clearly a problem. More interestingly, I believe, is that you can actually take advantage of the fold. Jared discusses this notion in a later piece, which, I believe, follows the intuition many of us already have about scrolling.

On the other hand, I don't believe clicks matter at all. It's all about user-expectations. If the user feels like he/she is on the right path, he/she might very well click a dozen times; each time getting "closer." It's all about whether or not the site at a given moment and position is meeting the expectations, desires, and inclinations of its users.

~ yoni

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True, as long as users feel they're making progress on their task, they'll generally keep clicking. However, unnecessary clicks waste users' time and cost effort. That's why they matter, I mean, assuming you're trying to give the best user experience, and not just get the user through the Purchase page. –  Michael Zuschlag Mar 17 '10 at 11:53
    
Obviously I don't mean we should endeavor to add clicks (unless we are a floundering old-school publishing company desperate for extra clicks), I'm just saying that they are not, in and of themselves, primary (or even secondary) metrics. If something is important/relevant, then we must design for its easy exposure. If not, we must avoid accidentally hiding it in a mess of poor IA. :) –  Yoni Mar 17 '10 at 16:17

Here is an article from a few years ago: http://blog.clicktale.com/2006/12/23/unfolding-the-fold/

The major findings here were that:

  • 91% of the page-views had a scroll-bar.
  • 76% of the page-views with a scroll-bar were scrolled to some extent.
  • 22% of the page-views with a scroll-bar were scrolled all the way to the bottom.

Also of note is that it doesn't even matter how long the pages are, as most of the users who would scroll down to the base of a 2000px high page will still scroll to the bottom of a 5000px screen.

It does go on to break down all these findings, but it does appear that the majority of users will scroll pages, and nowadays even expect to scroll.

Quite an interesting read.

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I agree with what Michael Z. says. My take on it is that for certain interactions, like web form filling which may require a constant pricing feedback to the user, having essential feedback content above the fold can be key. That said, users seem happy to scroll vertically for form filling and some form implementations use a floating element to continuously display essentially updated info even when the user scrolls. Personally I'm not a big fan of floating stuff though.

With regards to browser sizes, check out this lovely browser size tool from Google Labs. It shows the available browser screen estate without the browser elements (i.e. visible window space) as an overlay on top of any pages you care to load, based on google's browser stats. It still needs some work, but it's very useful and going in the right direction. Definitely work a bookmark.

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Jakob Nielsen's latest alert box on scrolling offers further insight to the argument that although users scroll, the page fold is not a myth

http://www.useit.com/alertbox/scrolling-attention.html

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Yeah, I read Jakob's latest. What a crock! Besides relying heavily on eye-tracking voodoo, he almost completely neglects the nature of the content being shown. Context and, as Sascha points out below, content matter. How about a site providing article-like content (like Jakob's piece)? People read until they either get bored or to the end (or, in this case, get sick of it). –  Yoni Mar 23 '10 at 11:24

According to Paddy Donnelly, yes users do scroll: http://iampaddy.com/lifebelow600/

I'm with Paddy on this one. I feel sites telling a story will entice users to scroll and scroll, but obviously, this may only apply to certain styles of sites and writing.

Also, where exactly is the fold? With so many different screen resolutions around, we cannot (and never really have been able to) guarantee the same fold position for every user.

Although I agree with Paddy, I still feel that the most important information should be within the top third of a site. But we shouldn't be afraid to entice the user to scroll. After all, that's what the scroll bar is there for... let's use it!

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It's a bit assumptive that it would matter for all UX design, but when designing for web specifically any property relying on search traffic, it doesn't matter whether the fold is a myth or not. It matters to Google. We have to be attentive to how it loads and how our pages perform. Google's Page Speed Insights have many recommendations towards streamlining your scripts so that only necessary scripts load above the fold.

Ultimately, they discovered that a slow load time results in less interaction with your website, fewer page views, searches, and widgets prodded or clicked. They inferred that content that is visible upon loading needs to perform as well as possible to maximize the user experience.

Whether we're putting a call to action above or below the invisible line or not people can argue about all day long, but we're treating that content differently as developers and designers because it's another inch in the game of inches that is being first, best, loudest.

Thus, The fold exists.

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This is something I have found myself dealing with a lot over the last few weeks. Mention 'fold' to some designers (or the ones I have spoken to at least) and they'll simply refuse to listen beyond that point.

It isn't simply a matter of keeping everything above the fold line. You should however, regardless of target user screen dimensions, keep important information and calls to action in the most prominent/visible place on the screen.

This thought is reiterated in the following article: http://philwhitehouse.blogspot.com/2009/10/on-page-folds-and-users.html

The key phrase here being:

...it's still incumbent on us web professionals to make sure that the user journeys are as straightforward as possible for the end user. This means making it easy to find the most popular content quickly, which implies less scrolling.

All the best,

Chris

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In short: users do scroll if your content etc. matters to them.

If they don't, it's not because of the mythical fold, but because you either really epically failed to get them interested (i.e. rather scared them away) or they wouldn't be interested in any case.

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The fold is still critical in one aspect, in that if someone visits your page, what they see initially is the part of the page above the fold. If that does not engage them enough to consider looking further then you have lost them.

So, while I would completely agree that users will scroll, they will only do that if they believe that the site is worth looking at.

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Bingo. I think the analogy with newspaper vending machines is a good one: if readers looking through the vending-machine window thought all the content was visible above the fold, nobody would bother buying the newspapers. The goal is to put enough content above the fold that readers will expect the content below the fold to be of interest. –  supercat Oct 16 at 22:29

Oh, and another, slightly tangential tip - if your page does go beyond the fold, don't employ visual designs that employ solid horizontal divisions. Users can sometimes misinterpret them as signifying the end of a section or page (eg the start of a footer).

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