Back in June, my colleague, Brendan Regan, posted some usability findings on scrolling and attention. Brendan’s post noted that the study reinforced the 80/20 rule: the area above the fold gets 80% of the time spent looking at a page. The implications this rule has for the design and layout of pages on your website are significant. It is a concept that is central to the conversion rate optimization analysis we conduct, and is perfectly illustrated by work we did recently with one of our clients.
With this concept in mind, we noted several limitations to a client’s sales/product page, and recommended to test a radical page redesign. The new page increased the conversion rate from the sales/product page to final confirmation page by 25%, directly generating an additional $9,315.45 per month in sales.
What were the specific limitations of the original page? The original sales page featured effective content, but it was organized in the traditional long scroll format: content heavy, and flowing continuously from top to bottom. Making matters worse, there were no tabs or anchor links to help the visitor find appropriate content to answer questions. This required the visitor to do a lot of scrolling and scanning for information, and typically, only the most methodical visitors persist through such a laborious task, and even they might have missed some key information. Based on the 80/20 rule, and the distribution of content on the page, it’s likely that a large portion of visitors never even realized the information they were looking for was present on the page.
Our hypothesis for this test was that more visitors would read the content on the sales/product page and get value from it if the content was featured effectively above the fold. That the perceived sense of value would propel visitors forward in their buying process, and result in increased clicks to “Add to cart” and through final conversion. We made 2 primary format modifications to increase organization above the fold and help more visitors find answers to their questions:
1. reduced the length of the page dramatically
2. featured tabs above the fold, each labeled with a specific questions, and containing the content most relevant to that question
The new organization of information on the page brought key concepts above the fold, into the part of the page where visitors spend 80% of their time. Although each tab’s content still scrolled below the fold, the new page still required less overall scrolling because prospects could easily recognize content most relevant to their question and navigate to it, without having to endlessly scroll through content of no interest to them.
Whether your site follows the long scroll format or not, you may still have pages that could benefit from a look through the lens of the 80/20 rule. But be careful! Going through every page of your website will be terribly inefficient. And prioritizing this task over others might not be wise either. Just because it was a high priority item for this client doesn’t necessarily mean it holds the same value for you.
Every business is unique, and thoughtful consideration should be given to how the factors at the heart of how your company makes money, may influence the optimal design and layout of your site. Blindly following a best practices list could lead to disappointment. The only way to know what will help you improve your performance is to follow a process where data drives analysis. Take off the blinders and liberate yourself from the trap of best practices! Your analytics data has the power to tell you where the most problematic areas of your site live, based on real-time data about your visitor’s behavior. If you are willing to be less scripted about your analysis than a checklist of pages and rules, you will be both open to seeing the problem areas as indicated in your data, and better able to shift your attention to the highest priority items as needed.