It’s probably a good idea to start with the obvious: today’s consumers are impatient. They’re impatient waiting at the checkout stand. They want pizza delivery in 30 minutes or less. Whatever the service, consumers today want it faster and better than ever before.
But as edgy, impatient and easily annoyed as they are in “the real world,” multiply that by a factor of 10 when their world goes digital. There’s something about the internet that gets consumers exasperated and annoyed quicker. It’s one of the reasons that on average they won’t wait for more than 3 seconds for a website to load—if your site load time is slower than that, you can count on losing about 40% of site visitors—not to mention a whole lot of business. Now, that’s impatient.
What Are You Trying To Say?
The most valuable commodity in digital marketing isn’t clean data or smart analytics or killer content—it’s attention span, as in prospective customers for your business don’t have a very long one. Driven by the need to do whatever it is they’re doing at an ever higher rate of speed, internet surfers treat their attention span like a closely-guarded private bank account, as in, “OK, I’ll give you 5 seconds to tell me why I should care about your business.”
That means you need to get to the point as quickly (and compellingly) as possible, whether that’s in your promotional emails, in blogs, in social media posts—or on your website. And because your website is the face of your business and the heart of your marketing strategy, you need to make sure consumers “get the message” right away, without searching, and without scrolling.
What Precisely Does “Above The Fold Mean”?
The phrase derives from the days when newspapers were people’s principal source of information and news. Newspapers were divided in half on the vertical. Publishers knew that people would invariably check out the top half of the front page before the bottom, so they used to place (they still do) their most important content there.
When you think about it, the home page (or any page, for that matter) on your website is not that different from a folded newspaper. The first thing visitors to your site see is what appears when it first loads. And like those publishers in the heyday of print journalism, to grab their attention, you need to put what’s most important about your business in that real estate.
Is “Above The Fold” Still Important?
In a word, yes, and the reason is simple. Consumers on average focus about 80% of their attention on what’s above the fold.
Said differently, the concept of “above the fold” is still relevant, but not precisely in the way it used to be, this primarily because of the rapid expansion of mobile devices and searching. Today, more than half of all searches take place on smartphones, and on those devices, scrolling feels natural and right.
Today, the significance of what you place above the fold has less to do with concerns that consumers will never see all the things you want them to see and more to do with “setting the stage” for what comes next. In other words, what’s above the fold is important because it quickly tells customers and prospective customers who you are, why you’re better than the competition and, of course, what you want them to do next.
As Impact rightly notes, today what’s above the fold is all about keeping visitors on your site and inspiring them to take the next step on the path you want them to follow (read, buyer’s journey):
“When it comes to the design of your website, you do need to place extra attention above the fold, but only in the sense that the top of your page should clearly explain your value proposition and also entice users to continue scrolling. The fold does set the stage for the rest of the page’s content and sets the expectations of what users can expect to find on the rest of the page, but the idea that we need to fit as much content as possible in this area because it’s the only content that people read is an outdated design practice.”
So, What Exactly Should Go Above The Fold?
The simple answer is, “it depends.” Every business is different, with different customers, different goals and different marketing challenges. What you place above the fold, in other words, is largely a function of what your business is all about and who your customers are.
That said, for the lion’s share of businesses, there are 2 simple rules for what should above the fold:
Tell prospective customers who you are: yes, we’re talking about your value proposition, so make sure you’ve taken the time to craft a value proposition that resonates with your target audience—and make sure you keep it short.
Let them test who you are for themselves: the call to action (CTA) you position above the fold should directly relate to (and reinforce) your value proposition. And, like your value proposition, keep your CTA short, generally no more than a couple words. So, let’s look at a couple examples of businesses that hit “above the fold” out of the park:
The Great Falls Area Chamber of Commerce
The goal of this website is to increase membership in a community organization. That means demonstrating persuasive “what’s in it” for the target audience.
To achieve that goal, the designer includes a photograph of the downtown area, in this way creating a connection with prospective chamber members and demonstrating local bona fides. That is then linked to a powerful value proposition, “CREATING OPPORTUNITIES TO CONNECT YOU WITH OTHERS AND INCREASE YOUR VISIBILITY.”
Immediately, site visitors understand that, in joining, they can increase the presence of their business in the community and (by implication) sales of their products and services. The proposition is then joined to 2 compelling calls to action. The first, “Membership Benefits,” reinforces the value proposition with specifics. The second, “Join Today,” accommodates site visitors who need no further convincing.
By linking specific benefits to their CTA, the Chamber achieves its principal goal of increased membership. By providing scrollers a more nuanced description of “what’s in it” for prospective members, they reinforce their principal message.
Sites like these make website design look easy, sort of like Fred Astaire makes dancing look easy. It isn’t. Whether it’s what you place above the fold, how you design site navigation or the calls to action that inspire conversions, website builds can be both complicated and confusing. That’s where we can help.
To learn more about the ways our website design, local SEO and strategy and consulting services can help you achieve your top marketing goals—and take your business to the next level—schedule a call today.