Above the Fold: How (and Why) You Should Enhance Your Homepage
As a student, I wanted to be a journalist. I wrote for my high school newspaper and yearbook. In college, I swallowed newspapers whole and studied under writers from the Philly Inquirer and the Washington Post. I worked with the best of ‘em. But across all of my experiences as a writer, there was one common phrase that leveled the playing field of expertise: above the fold. Above the fold is that prime real estate (pun intended) of coveted newspaper on the upper half of the first page. It’s where your story goes if it’s important. As a beat reporter at The Daily Pennsylvanian, I woke up early in the morning and ran to the closest newsstand to see if my story made the front page. If your story was above the fold, you were golden. You were the first thing readers saw when they picked up the paper, and you partly determined if they were interested enough to open the rest of its pages.
As I moved into the Internet marketing world, I realized that this concept carries over. Websites are, in a sense, virtual newspapers. Your homepage is the front page. Everything within a client’s immediate field of vision after landing on your homepage is above the fold. The content and design of this section of your website are important for business. However, it is not the be-all, end-all of your site’s success. Some marketers swear by the fold. Others say the fold is dead and offer research that shows why the fold is a myth.
I’m here to offer another perspective: like most things, the success of the fold is about balance. Don’t cram every possible piece of information about your company into 600 by 600 pixels; users know how scrolling works, and they’ll use it if they want to. Conversely, don’t treat the above-the-fold section like any old page on your website. Your homepage should tell a story to your clients and lead them easily through the entirety of your site. Ideally, an explanation of your business’s primary focus should sit above the fold. You might even offer a call to action above the fold – although we’ll talk about that more below.
Here’s the gist: if the content and design above the fold are good, potential homebuyers and sellers will be more likely to venture into the deeper pages of your site – like property search pages and contact pages. If the content and design above the fold are bad, then those same potential clients might just hit the back button and return to their search – making your bounce rates rise. So how do you entice your clients with such a small space? Thankfully, the solutions are simple enough.
1) Organized Design. First thing first: make sure that the design and content of your homepage are organized. Cut out the graphic clutter. Clean boxes that display your site content will make your website more legible and easier to navigate. Your homepage should be the easiest part of your site for users to interact with. Again, your site should tell a story; it should help users move through other sections of your site in a simple way, whether that’s by scrolling down or navigating to an inner page.
2) Clear, Concise Copy. Clear copy wins at the end of the day. Whether you’re writing about your latest listing or your company’s mission statement, make sure that the language is straightforward and easy to read. Site visitors don’t have much patience when it comes to sorting through information. They choose the path of least resistance. Guiding your visitors to your call to action through clear, above-the-fold content will lead to better business and more conversions.
3) Navigation. When visitors first land on your homepage, they will make split-second judgments about how likely your site will answer their needs. Place a navigation bar at the top of the page so that it’s easily visible above the fold. The navigation bar serves as a sneak peek for the rest of the content on your site, and users will be more likely to visit the inner pages of your website if the navigation bar is easily accessible.
4) Logo and Mission Statement. Your site visitors want to know who your company is and what you’re about. Provide this information above the fold for easy access. Once a visitor lands on your homepage, they want to know that they aren’t wasting their time. Do you sell land property in northern Maine, or do you deal exclusively with beach rentals in North Carolina? Feature this information prominently so that your potential clients know that they’re in the right place.
5) Engaging Images. We live in a visual world. Choose images for your homepage that will interest your visitors. Best way to go? Images that are action-centric and focus on the product or service that your company provides. Are you a real estate agent? Pick a photo of yourself hosting an open house. Are you a horse wrangler? Find a photo of you riding bareback on a horse. You get the idea; capture your audience.
6) Call to Action (CTA). The placement of a call to action is probably one of the most disputed topics in web design. For a while, placing a CTA anywhere below the fold was considered blasphemy. Now, the facts are a little different; one business actually received a 304% increase in leads after moving their CTA all the way to the bottom of their homepage (cue gasps). Again, I believe the truth is a little more nuanced. The key is to try and test multiple placements for your CTA. Always go back to the data. Place CTAs strategically around your site. Your company is unique, and it has different needs and audiences than the business next door. The trick is to customize your site to its needs.