The Page Fold Myth on Ecommerce Product Pages

It’s time we break the habit of thinking we gotta cram as much as possible above the fold because people don’t like to scroll.

It just ain’t so!

Here’s a nugget from a post I came across — The myth of the page fold: evidence from user testing (via The Grok):

Over the last 6 years we’ve watched over 800 user testing sessions between us and on only 3 occasions have we seen the page fold as a barrier to users getting to the content they want.

That’s pretty convincing evidence that the usability sin of “making the user scroll” is outdated. (Even Jakob Nielsen agrees). We also know we cannot predict where a visitor’s fold is – it doesn’t just depend on screen resolution but how the visitor has sized the browser window.

What you can control is design elements, and we know these can affect the likelihood the visitor will bother to scroll.

Design elements that hinder scrolling

So people aren’t scrollophobic and you don’t need to pack everything important above the fold as was once thought. In fact, CX Partners’ article points out that showing less stuff “above the fold” encourages exploration below the fold.

They also found that “hard bars” can interrupt eye flow, so people don’t think of scrolling or paying attention to what’s below.

“The long blue ‘Accommodation’ heading was acting as a barrier. This is the common theme – strong horizontal lines across the page discourage scrolling.”

It’s tragic when your main calls to action (especially the cart button) live sub-bar. I still see this way too often on retailer sites. Manufacturers/brands like Purdy’s need to remember that customers understand not all brand sites are transactional (especially food items). If your site doesn’t make it blatantly obvious that it’s transactional (big ‘View Cart’ in the top right hand corner, shipping offer banners, prices and cart buttons clearly visible), you’re risking abandonment.

Another mistake is hiding pricing and the cart button inside a strong bar (banner blindness is also a factor). Any retailer that hides pricing, information or calls-to-action underneath a solid bar or otherwise out of the conventional product content area needs to run a test with a modified design. For example, Purdy’s could test this:

I’m confident that a redesign would have a positive impact on conversion for Purdy’s. But I would suggest they run a test to quantify exactly what the conversion difference is – and the impact on revenue.

Simple design changes can impact conversion

Anne Holland from WhichTestWon.com posts tests every week that will really make you think. (I had the privilege of teaming up with her last week to present testing cases and ideas, you can watch the webinar replay here).

One test found that showing a larger image which dipped below the fold had better results:

Despite requiring more scrolling, the larger image enticed 63% more visitors to click to start the bidding process. Even better, a whopping 329% more visitors who started bidding actually filled out all the online forms required to place a bid. So, the larger image helped fickle bidders maintain their initial excitement as they worked their way through the bidding process.

The takeaway here is to look for potential eye-blockers like a cluttered upper area of your home page or strong, dark bars on your landing pages and test them against modified designs. Often these are tests that are overlooked because they don’t intuitively seem to be a problem.

You can get more testing tips and ideas in the webinar co-presented by Anne Holland and me: Best Ecommerce Tests — Case Studies & Practical Advice to Raise Conversions Before the Holidays


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10 Responses to “The Page Fold Myth on Ecommerce Product Pages”

  1. Why suddenly start talking about “hiding pricing and the cart button inside a strong bar”? I would’ve loved an entire article just about the fold and all its myths :)

    But it’s true, scrolling really isn’t a concern anymore, and even when (if?) it was having well-designed elements above and below the fold still mattered way more..

    Thanks for a great blog, Linda.

  2. Great post, Linda. The fold is often not the most important consideration for conversion effectiveness.

    However, user testing like in the CX Partners article, does not give solid evidence. A controlled test is needed before drawing conclusions.

    Interestingly, we have run many A/B/n & MVT tests that provide evidence for both sides of the debate. We’ve seen long pages lift ecommerce sales by up to 20% and we’ve seen above-the-fold buttons lift conversions too. What we’ve found is that (as in most of these issues) context is important.

    Here’s an example of a long-page ecommerce winner that we just posted yesterday:
    http://www.widerfunnel.com/case-study/how-conversion-optimization-addresses-the-challenge-of-a-single-product-ecommerce-site-and-lifts-conversions-by-50

    Chris

  3. Thanks for the great post, Linda. As marketers, we’re always told to make sure everything needs to be above the fold in order to be effective. It’s refreshing to see quantitative results that show the contrary. It also takes some of the stress out of trying to get all pertinent information above the fold to avoid customer abandonment. Thanks again!

    Tessa Carroll
    VBP OutSourcing
    http://www.blogs.vbpoutsourcing.com

  4. Great post indeed! What is really interesting is the facts about creating/not creating a hard horizontal bar across your webpage. I will definitely start to test these “strong darker bars” against other designs…and implements some bigger pictures to get a feel for the new reactions.

    Kayvan Mott
    http://www.infinitecomm.net

  5. I am always leery about articles like this one from CX Partners for a couple of reasons. First, it really fails to address the real issue – “What action do you want the user to take on the page?” rather than just judging what a user saw and their ability to scroll. A user & business goal is the sole basis of any page design. I am a big fan of eyetracking, but more for it’s ability to determine the subtractibility and heierachy of page elements. Second, these are the types of articles that can lead to bad decisions and organizational misinformation rather than relying on A/B and multivariate testing of your specific pages by your actual users on your site (check out Bob Sutton’s “Hard Facts, Dangerous Half-Truths And Total Nonsense” for a deeper dive on this). I’ve performed dozens of tests where scrolling & page length affected conversion & abandonment as well as vice-versa. Just as Chris pointed out, context is critical of how “scrolly” a page or site should be. Just as I have scrolled through 6-7 screens of test to leave this comment, that typically should not be the case for users who are trying to perform a different type of task on a different type of site.

  6. [...] Bustos reviews case studies and provides advice on how to optimize the above the fold section of websites. Could her advice warrant testing for email as [...]

  7. Great article, it’s been featured on our blog network: http://www.onlinemarketingconnect.com/website-usability/

    Usability is key when engaging viewers. I hesitate with: “showing less stuff ‘above the fold’ encourages exploration below the fold.” The action may have been caused by a lack of information or reader confusion, in which leaving quality content and better design above the fold could lead to a click to a new page rather than a scroll down. It’s important to look at all aspects and possibilities of tested results.

  8. Think this article uses too much of the cxpartners content. Our research shows that whether users want to scroll or not depends on the type of page and the type of website

    On the Web Usability Blog there’s an article “Page Fold: Myth or Reality?” that goes deeper into this. And even Jakob Nielsen reacted on that article.
    http://webusability-blog.com/page-fold-myth-or-reality/

  9. @Karl, the purpose of this post is that it shouldn’t be a design “best practice” to cram everything “above the fold” because people are somehow scrollophobic (as once thought), and that a cluttered above-the-fold design and design elements like solid, hard bars can influence whether people scroll.

    The key word is “can.”

    I didn’t feel the CX Partners article ever suggested that you don’t have to take the fold into consideration anymore. Through their observation they noted with eye tracking that page design had an influence. I found that very intriguing.

    I’m glad that companies like CX Partners and your blog are doing research and sharing your findings.

  10. [...] Also, keep in mind as consumers change their behavior online, “best practices” become outdated. Think about the old rule “don’t put anything below the ‘fold.’” We now know that users are more comfortable with scrolling, and not everything needs to be above the fold. [...]

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