As one of the sales guys here at Speak, I hear what I suspect web designers worldwide hear some version of on a pretty regular basis: "We're looking to design a website. We want it to be awesome, but we want to make sure the user doesn't have to scroll. We want everything above the fold." I bet I hear that comment at least once a week as I talk with potential clients. The underlying intention of the "above the fold" statement by a client is definitely worth hearing. What they mean is: We want to make sure our content is consumed, internalized, acted upon and shared. In short, we don't want a visitor to our website to miss something vital.
All that being said, there is a disconnect between the client's underlying concern and how they feel it should be addressed (no scrolling). Maybe I can help address this well-meaning (but incorrectly placed) concern and help you find a good path forward.
Should you be concerned about users interacting with your content? Absolutely. Is a no-scrolling website the solution? Maybe/maybe not.
Let's take a broader look into the online marketplace. When I come across an issue like this, I think it's always a good idea to take a look at companies that are known to be consumer-behavior leaders. They spend millions of dollars on an annual basis to understand how we interact, and by examining the by-products of their research (namely their consumer-facing websites), we can pretty easily test a design requirement (e.g. the "above the fold" issue).
What are some companies that come to mind? Feel free to make your own list and walk through this exercise on your own, but I came up with a few to look at as examples: Nike, Apple and Anthropologie. I've provided screenshots of each site below and have some take-aways following the screenshots.
Apple.com iPhone Landing Page
Nike, Apple and Anthropologie? They know what they are doing. They may not represent brands that you love or interact with on a regular basis, but they certainly do represent companies that spend way more than you or me in consumer research every single year. Here are a few takeaways from these sites for dealing with content presentation:
People Scroll: There's really no other way to say it. You scroll. I scroll. Our natural reaction to seeing a website is not to assume that all of our choices are limited to what we see. Scrolling was a bigger deal several years ago, but as the online marketplace found more compelling ways to present content, we've come to accept scrolling as a normal behavior. (Want to really have your mind blown? Visit the Unfold site and let me know when you stop scrolling.) Don't be afraid of having a content rich home page or landing page (or content page for that matter). Embrace the scroll.
Prioritize Content Placement: This one can be tricky. With your newfound freedom to embrace scrolling, your website will lose the attention of your audience if you don't prioritize content. Your most important message, product promo, etc. should still be the first thing people see. Supporting content should follow next. From there, secondary messages and services followed by more supporting content. You get the idea.
Scrolling isn't the answer: Wait. What? The takeaway from the above examples is not that a long page of dynamic content is always the best presentation of your organization online. The Apple example above references the iPhone product website. The home page of Apple.com? An example of the "above the fold" concept executed well. There is no "right" across-the-board answer.
So the next time you're in a conversation with us or another agency, instead of asking for a website with all of the information "above the fold," ask us how we would prioritize your content. It's a good question to ask any designer/agency. The question requires us to have a deeper knowledge of your organization and provide a more robust answer than some tired design trope. The emphasis becomes putting together a gameplan that ensures your audience sees exactly what it needs to see as it progresses through your website, and that's what you're really after, right?
Do you need a strategic partner to help you with your digital presence? Give us a shout. We'll be happy to talk with you about your needs and provide recommendations.