An unfortunate consequence of working with the web for so many years is that when I’m online, I can’t just enjoy the wonder and awe that is the internet. As I load the pages, my mind is a running commentary of “why?! why does it have to be this way?!”
To keep the bitter resentment from building up until I shun the internet forever and make my way in the world carrying encyclopedias and the yellow pages in a backpack, I’m starting a new blog series to work out my internet traumas. Up first: the curious case of nothing above the fold.
Nothing above the fold is the current hip internet trend, like the rounded buttons of yesteryear. The most common case is a huge image that overtakes the entire screen. Images are engaging! They’re beautiful! They’re worth a thousand words!
And yes, all of those things are true. But just give me a couple of tiny hints: what the heck is this page about and is there any more of it? That’s all I ask. It’s not much, right?
Take Josh Malina. He’s just about the awesomest. His wife recently opened a flower shop in Los Angeles and he’s been marketing the hell out of it.
— Joshua Malina (@JoshMalina) October 24, 2015
They just launched an online store via Square (I’ll save my post about that for a rainy day) and above the fold it looks like this:
To their credit, the store name, address, and hours (sort of) are above the fold. But do you have any idea this page is actually an online store where you can buy things and have them mailed to you? Me either. Do you even know you can scroll and see more stuff? Me either.
Because I obsessively follow Josh Malina on Twitter and Instagram and Periscope (shush, I don’t hang out in front of his house or anything), I know that this is, in fact, an online store, but I still thought, huh. This is just a single page with the address. Maybe the actual online store is someplace else.
And then as I was getting up, I accidentally bumped my mouse (true story) and the page scrolled down slightly and I saw this:
What? Intrigued, I kept scrolling. And down at the footer is this!
This set up is not just a consequence of building an online store on a platform like Square, that I’m sure has set templates. Everyone’s doing it these days.
And in some cases, the ads are pushing even the huge images below the fold (although at least in this case, we get a headline, so I guess I should be thankful for the little things in life):
Of course, large images aren’t the only thing pushing all content below the fold. Lots of sites are so focused on getting you to like them on Facebook or sign up for their newsletter, that they forget you might want to actually read something on their site. In this case, I honestly am not sure if this page has any content:
But at least it’s better than the “take over the whole page” method. Honestly, internet, what is wrong with you?
Compare that to the peaceful oasis that is The Atlantic (maybe a result of their redesign?):
A beautiful, huge, image. But also the brand, the headline, an article summary, and a topic link. (Yeah, it’s not perfect. That hamburger menu post is waiting on a rainy day too.)
The headline and summary engage me and keep me on the page far better than just a pretty image. I might actually scroll.
Why does this matter for SEO? Well, most importantly, the whole point of ranking is to get and keep visitors (and convert them). And low engagement on pages isn’t a great signal for search engines.
So Josh? Call me. I’ve got some tips for you.