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Oct 26, 2009 | 3 minute read

The Page Fold Myth on Ecommerce Product Pages

written by Linda Bustos

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That's pretty convincing evidence that the usability sin of "making the user scroll" is outdated.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 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