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Monday, Jun. 14, 2010 at 11:50 am

Scroll With Me, Baby: The 80/20 Rule Strikes Again

By Brendan Regan
June 14th, 2010

Over two months ago, I read some findings from a usability study about “scrolling and attention.”  The data was very interesting, and I knew I wanted to post about it, but I couldn’t get a handle on what the data was telling me.

Sometimes, when you know an insight is there, you must “shelve” the data for a while to rest your brain.  It’s why the “let me sleep on it” approach is such a popular decision-making tactic :)

So, after a long gestation period, here are my 3 key concepts for conversion rate optimizers who want to design elegant, persuasive online experiences that make money:

Key Concept #1 – The 80/20 Rule remains a powerful force in the universePareto’s principle never goes away…ever.  It just continues to recur in everything, all the time.  Bow to its power! The takeaway from Jakob Nielsen’s report is that, while users are more willing to scroll ‘below the fold’ than they used to be, the area above the fold still gets 80% of the time spent looking at a page.  See the chart for the eerie split at 80.3% and 19.7%!

From UseIt.com 3/22/2010

From UseIt.com 3/22/2010

Key Concept #2 – The concept of keeping key content and call(s) to action ‘above the fold’ is still important.  But, if you expect users to scroll below the fold, you’d better make sure the page has good scent so they know that relevant content awaits them if they do use their scroll bar.

Key Concept #3 – The bottom of every page is key.  Note in Nielsen’s chart that the time spent fixating below the fold remains very low until the very bottom of pages.  This is due to users looking for the bottom of the page’s container.  It’s a bit grainy, but look at the screenshot of a gaze plot where the orange bar that is the active window’s bottom border gets the last fixation on the page.  The user looks for the bottom, finds it, then knows they need to either click something or scroll back up.  This presents an opportunity to place call(s) to action at the bottom of tall pages that necessitate scrolling, especially catalog pages with many products.  Maybe it’s a place to experiment with primary and/or secondary calls to action?

From UseIt.com 3-22-2010

From UseIt.com 3-22-2010

I think there are perhaps even more insights to be gained from Nielsen’s data published back in March.  Has anyone else been digesting the data, and do you have different thoughts?  Let an analyst know.

Add Your Comments

Comments (70)

  1. A new GA test I am fixing to run, is to layout the top opening paragraph on my category pages and thus bring the products higher up on the page thus showing more products and information higher up on the page.

    From your view of the 8-/20 rule, I am guessing you think the conversion will be higher with the new layout.

    Testing will see.

  2. Users also tend to read pages in an F shaped pattern, picking out what stands out from the content…in hence it is important to use eye catching headings, lists, bold text, images to attract their eyeballs…Nielsen report: http://www.useit.com/alertbox/reading_pattern.html

  3. There is well published hot area where the eye tracks and it has been proven that most of it are on the top and the left column. So, all revenue optimization opportunity should be focused there as well.

  4. [...] View full post on Conversion Rate Optimization & Marketing Blog | FutureNow, Inc [...]

  5. Im sure this info would be useful for anyone setting up an adsense optimized website. Good article.

  6. [...] Source:Scroll With Me, Baby: The 80/20 Rule Strikes Again [...]

  7. That’s a really good article. Amazing to see the behavior on the Amazon page. People seem to be interested only on bad reviews :-) .
    I never had a chance to work on eye tracking data. That must be amazing.

  8. I agree with John White. So it’s best to place adsense or ads on the said places. It is always best to place important information above the fold as well.

  9. The UseIt.com graph clearly shows all important information on a site need to be above the fold:
    1. Logo
    2. Menu
    3. Contact Info / Call to Action
    That’s the way it works best in term of conversion IMO. It’s good to see the Pareto distribution can be applied on scrolling as well.

  10. I was wondering what resolution I should set my screen for when checking where the fold is. Our site was designed for relatively hi resolution screens and so some of the calls to action fall below the fold. After reading the post I am thinking whether this should be changed site-wide?

  11. I have honestly never thought of placing a call to action in the bottom of a page. I didn’t think that anyone every looked a the footer. Obviously I was wrong.

  12. @GenDiamRing: You should examine your web analytics to see where your audience’s folds are. If you use Google Analytics, it’s found under Visitors » Browser Capabilities » Screen Resolutions. Many still use 768px as the fold height just to be safe.

  13. [...] View full post on Conversion Rate Optimization & Marketing Blog | FutureNow, Inc [...] thanks.

  14. Many years ago we put a banner ad below the fold on our newspaper site. We didn’t have a lot of ads at the time, so we forgot to take it down when we were supposed to. It ran for months unnoticed. When we finally noticed and took it down, we looked at the stats for it. Hardly any of our readers had noticed it too, because it didn’t even come close to the click-throughs of the ads above the fold.

  15. [...] Scroll With Me, Baby: The 80/20 Rule Strikes Again Published: June 15, 2010 Source: Conversion Rate Optimization & Marketing Blog | FutureNow, Inc Over two months ago, I read some findings from a usability study about “scrolling and attention.” The data was very interesting, and I knew I wanted to post about it, but I couldn’t get a handle on what the d… [...]

  16. It sounds like I need to start using Google Analytics so I can figure out which ad slots on my various sites are getting the clicks. The concept of keeping important info above the fold has eluded me, but I’m going to try to make some edits to my sites now that I’m more aware of the importance. Thanks for this article.

  17. in my experience you should offer prospects every opportunity to accept your offer, by default my landing pages have the call to action button at the top, middle and bottom.

  18. I’ve personally found merit in the F shaped reading model. Always depends on the site. Must use analytics.

  19. As a novice in marketing I had no idea that keeping your important calls to action above the fold was the way to go. It really makes a lot of sense though as most people are scanners on the internet with low attention spans.

    I will try to keep this principle in mind and test my copy and ROI using google analytics by testing various calls to action on the top and bottom of the page.

  20. I am frankly failing completely to develop my pages using concepts like “above the fold”. Its no wonder that in general my pages are underperforming, even though they are now starting to rank better in google for their targeted keywords.
    Thank you for your confirmation of what I was already beginning to suspect.

  21. The fold is very important and needs to be carefully thought out where to place your ads and your selling tools. Many people don’t think about what most peoples screen resolution is at when they set up their pages.

  22. Honestly this was excellent information, knowing that “…while users are more willing to scroll ‘below the fold’ than they used to be, the area above the fold still gets 80% of the time spent looking at a page…” is something that more businesses ought to read about and maximize what they choose to put up front on their websites!

  23. After reading this article I think it is finally time to me to really optimize the content at the bottom/footer of my page. As always great read.

  24. The page footer works just like a PS line does in a sales letter – its a chance to re-state the call to action.

  25. This is a great article. I used to think that it did not matter what goes below the fold but come to think of it I never look below the fold myself. The sites that place a call to action at the end only work when there is more information beyond that point. I will try to track this in the near future and see if it really makes a difference.

  26. Brendan, after reading it, concept #2 makes sense. If someone takes the pain of scrolling down and reading it all, we better have something for them to grab right there at the bottom, rather than having to scroll back up.

    Also, it puts the closing touches on the thought process.

    Thanks, Deven

  27. Concept 3 is interesting to me as I’ve consistently seen extensive use of bottom links, indeed I have clicked many a bottom bar link myself. I think at the bottom of a page a “top” link can be a double edged sword, if you can use that designer to move on in order to successfully create a secondary call to action, that is a lot more valuable than just returning your user to the top of the page. The user will be happy if you can make it relevant and they will troll more of your site. Certainly though, having NOTHING at the bottom of your page is a wasted second call to action.

  28. It is a good idea to plot the data so that you can explore its features.
    An exploratory plot of your data enables you to identify discontinuities
    and potential outliers, as well as the regions of interest.
    Thanks…

  29. It sounds like I need to start using Google Analytics so I can figure out which ad slots on my various sites are getting the clicks.

  30. I wonder where I can find this scrolling script, when you reach the bottom of the page, it loads other content. Facebook is using it and i think it will give you some positive user experience

  31. I still find it amazing how often the 80/20 rule crops up online. Fancy doing a follow up post on all the things you’ve found where it applies??

  32. Good information. I guess I had better rearrange some of my calls to action and some of my ads. I also hear that placing the ads on the left side at the top is of upmost importance as that’s a huge viewing position for most readers.

  33. This rule applies unless you have put a viable link on the bottom, which the user r looking for.

    This way you get a lot more clicks below the fold, since the sole purpose of the visitors is checking out that link, say live feeds and streaming.

  34. Oh Yea, the 80/20 rule :) It is great. I recently heard about it for the first time :)
    And the “let me sleep on it” rule also important. I thought i made it up with my friends, but now i see that someone has beat us to it :D

  35. Yes and it continues to amaze me that the preferred navigation bar is horizontal across the top. It’s almost a guarantee that the visitors won’t go through all your pages because they’ll forget which dropdown they were last on. Stack them vertically on the left and they’ll hit every page right in order..because of the “F” configuration, otherwise known as the golden triangle.

  36. This 80/20 Rule means that in anything a few 20% are vital and many 80% are trivial. this is great!

  37. [...] [...]

  38. This is lovely… Concept 3 is pretty interesting also to me because footer links are extremely common on websites. I think in your footer, you should put things that are very appealing to your visitors :)

  39. Maybe people are paying attention to the footer, because there’s not that much texts as it is on rest of the page . Or they didn’t find something, and looking for links where can find it (plus site map is usually at the bottom of the page).

  40. ha. Seems a little strange but who am i to judge these concepts.

  41. Good to see how people in amazon reacts to it….

    Nice article

    Thanks….

  42. It sounds like I need to start using Google Analytics so I can figure out which ad slots on my various sites are getting the clicks

  43. As this article points out it is important to keep content concise. I for one hardly ever read below the fold. As many usability tests show, people skim through pages in search for relevant information. If your points are not conveyed early on the web page your chances of keeping readers are slim.

  44. Good article!I guess I had better rearrange some of my calls to action and some of my ads. I also hear that placing the ads on the left side at the top is of upmost importance as that’s a huge viewing position for most readers.

  45. While it’s really good to have your best content above the fold, as support by data from continuous research, you shouldn’t be concerned about putting content below the fold. The page should display what it needs to display and shouldn’t be confined by rules. If you have good content below the fold, and let people know it’s there, they will scroll.

  46. You can’t go wrong with Jakob Nielsen. It amazes me how few people who work in this industry aren’t familiar with him or his work.

  47. I wonder where I can find this scrolling script, when you reach the bottom of the page, it loads other content. Facebook is using it and i think it will give you some positive user experience

  48. At first when someone told me about this rule, I though it’s bunch of baloney.

    “My content is good enough for people to scroll down and click”

    Yet, even if it’s interesting, if they do scroll down, there r past the clicking urge I guess.

    I did see a big difference between the adds, above the fold and under it.

  49. I found this particularly interesting as a blogger. Although maybe the fact that most sites have the best information at the top of the page contributes, and yes, i had to scroll down to post this comment, i’m in the 20%!

  50. If you can convert 1% of that 20% that are willing to read below the fold then that would justify a call to action in the lower half.

    I try to have one at the top and bottom on any sale copy

  51. [...] Scroll With Me, Baby: The 80/20 Rule Strikes Again. [...]

  52. I have experienced that myself. We all know the long affiliate sites, I mean those that are trying to sell affiliate products. I look at the main heading, after that just take a quick look at the half of the site diagonally, then I read another line to see if I’ve missed something important and read the last few bits of the page because I rely on the fact that there I will find summary and will get the idea do I need the product or not.

  53. Any data on what the conversion rate for below the fold visitors is? I suppose that the rate could be higher than average as those ‘below the folders’ are really interested in the site content and are therefore more likely to complete the call to action.

    Paretto is always key. (or at least 20% of the time!)

  54. Great. I love the 80/20 rule :) . I guess some tricks can be used to make users scroll more. Maybe some picture that is showed half of it and unless you scroll you do not see it all, or some other similar tricks ;)

  55. Interesting study, i’ve always been under the impression that http://www.thereisnopagefold.com

  56. The 80/20 rule is fantastic, I think it can be applied to anything.

    I’m not sure if tricks can be applied to make users scroll down more, the careful placement of calls to action and headers will help, but this is an evolution of the reader as such.

    This is a good subject that can brings up issue for not only on site but could also be applied to email marketing strategy too.

  57. Hollie: I think that regardless of how you generally lay out your site, most people immediately scroll to the bottom of the page whether they’re reading everything, or if they’re just checking to see how much content there is on the site (I know I’m guilty of that). The idea of leaving a border or some indication to break away from the main content and leaving some sort of call to action or at least suggest the means to, it will be more effective.

  58. This is extremely useful. I guess my approach has been much simpler, I have tried to create interesting content and relied on that to keep people reading. The need to carefully consider calls to action is something that I will almost certainly bear in mind in the future.

  59. Great pointers for usability here. I was amazed to see how 80/20 always goes unbeaten and stands after all this time. I’ll definitively use some of this when I design my next website

  60. Great insight. Regarding your concept #3 I think it is very important to have actions at the bottom of every page, like “click here” or “check out our related post” etc.

  61. I agree with John White. So it’s best to place adsense or ads on the said places. It is always best to place important information above the fold as well.

  62. That’s a really good article. Amazing to see the behavior on the Amazon page. People seem to be interested only on bad reviews

  63. I don’t know. This seems too complicated. I am a firm believer that less is more and want nothing below the fold unless I am hiding it. I will have to test the F layout that other commenters mentioned on one of my adsense sites. That was a good tip, thanks!

  64. Not sure how realistic it is to always have call to action above the fold. Need to make a pitch first, no? Suppose you could put your call within the pitch, but not sure how much success you’d have. Could also use javascript to “collapse” parts of the page to prevent initial scrolling. Entice people to open up additional sections as they go along.

  65. About the fact that there’s a large number of people jumping to the bottom of the page, or staying above the fold.

    I believe that it was Dan Kennedy who responded to a question about how long a long sales letter should be with this statement, “a sales letter must be long enough to convince people to do what you want them to do.” What I get from that is in a long sales letter people will read as far as they need to to be convinced, then they look for the offer which is usually at the end.

    So, if your sales letter, or website, is working, many will read just so far and then jump to the end to see what you are offering, or how much it is. And that’s why there’s a big blip in your graph right at the end.

    It also looks as if most people don’t really need to read much below the fold before they go looking for the end.

    Not sure if that means they got tired and just checked out the call to action, or whether it worked and they were ready to act. The real success depends on how many are acting at the end.

  66. @ho’oponopono: Agree, it gets annoying when the CTA is ALWAYS above the fold. Makes sense on some pages, and not others. It’s very easy to split test this concept on every page to understand where it drives action vs. where it annoys.

  67. Never thought of 80/20 in terms of above the fold. I’ve always tried to post my key content there and now there is science to back up what we’ve always thought. Well done Brendan.

    Are their studies on anyone actually putting offers in the footer to capture that attention?

  68. [...] Scroll With Me, Baby: The 80/20 Rule Strikes Again. [...]

  69. Reading about CTA so much on your blog, I feel like I am not doing a good job with CTA. I’ll have to get my sleeves up soon and try a few things, really. Good read.

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