An expending trend
A few years ago, developers were desperately struggling with trying to make a whole page’s content standing up above the fold. The “under-fold” was the forgotten place where the information was ineluctably ignored, unseen. Today, that is no longer true. Actually, the trend reversed.
The scroll rate significantly increased on every device those last 2 years. From 2013 to 2014, Web users scrolled 5% more on desktop, 18% more on smartphone, and 42% more on tablet! Inspired by social media, which display their content on a unique infinite page, the scroll has become more and more popular, so that now it has reached all kind of websites. Following the example of Twitter, some of them even display “infinite scroll”, a continuous scrolling that leads to no end, but an infinity of content displaying as long as users scroll down. The myth of “everything in the first screen” is over!
Scroll rates are higher on tablets, scrolled down to 3400 pixels in 2014, when mobile devices were scrolled down to 2000 pixels and desktop to 850. Those numbers are not random: if mobile devices meet a better scroll rate, that is because scrolling is more adapted to their format than to desktop. And it is actually because of their more and more common use that Web users became more familiar with scrolling. The evolution of the websites’ structure, with responsive design, also facilitated the scroll development.
As another consequence of this new devices trend, footer became a significant browsing tool, as users now scroll down to the bottom of the page. While only 5% of users scrolled to the footer in 2011, they grew up to 15% in 2014. This important increase requires optimized footers, as they became useful navigation tools.
The impact on conversion
Though there is no correlation between the scroll rate and conversion on desktop, tactile devices meet a whole different result. There is a positive correlation between scroll rate and conversion on these devices, as tablet and mobile users consume more content and scroll much more. On smartphones, users who purchase scroll 23% more than users who did not, while on tablets, e-shoppers scroll 25% more. On mobile devices, the more people scroll, the more they buy.
Then is the fold still accurate?
Web users still want to get the main information right away on your website. So yes, the fold is still meaningful. The key points should obviously be displayed above the fold, but also be an incentive for reading the content below. There is a logical ranking of the information within the page. The fold is important, but as internet users scroll more and more, work out your design in order to highlight the fact that there is more to discover below the fold. You have to keep your Web user interested in the content, make it want to see what happens next below. Preserve a logic of continuity, a will to intrigue and to entertain.
Considering cultural differences
There are also cultural differences to take into account concerning the scroll rate. For example, in China, Web users are more used to scroll than Europeans: the product pages are 8 times longer than in Europe! This significant difference might be explained by several cultural facts. Chinese people are more used to deal with a lot of information, as they read an alphabet with 5000 characters. Moreover, Chinese make 50-year plans while we plan the future spanning 2 or 3 years. We might also consider that the loading time are higher in China. Therefore, this is more pleasant for internet user to wait and to load a very long page in one time, in which they will scroll a lot, rather than waiting a long time for many short pages.
As a conclusion, we can notice that user experience is not an irrevocable thing. It moves, evolves, changes, depending on time, users, devices, customs and even countries. The evolution of scroll rate these years proves how much this is not a static science. As well, ergonomics is not unalterable. You might think that a footer is not an important browsing tool at all, but it soon might become an item that strongly matters. And this is precisely why understanding your user experience is at that point essential: this is the only way for you to get close to your client’s expectations and to make your website’s design change over time.