The Email Fold: Are we Generation scroll?

The Email Fold: Are we Generation scroll?

The Email Fold: Are we Generation scroll?

Bex Osborn

Marketing Strategist

11 May 2021

Generation scroll The other evening I found myself aimlessly watching some rubbish on TV, and my significant other was doing her thing on social media.

“That’ll rot your brain” I always tell her - I’m genuinely starting to sound like my dad these days.

Anyway, I became intrigued at the length of time she was scrolling for - we are talking hours! This got me thinking a little, have we become a generation of scrollers? And if so, is the importance of "above the fold" design and it’s hierarchy becoming a little redundant? What does “Above the fold” mean? Above the Fold is the portion of an email or web page that is visible without scrolling.

This portion will differ across different screen sizes of course but consequently, email designers and developers give a lot of thought into what goes above the fold.

Quick fact for you! The term “Above the fold” actually originated from the newspaper industry.

Newspapers are usually folded in half before they are put on sale.

It has, therefore, become a common practice to display a newspaper’s most intriguing stories and graphics above the fold.

To give you an idea, here is a recent email I received from Google which shows a highlighted area of content which sits above the fold.

This is a great example as it not only shows off engaging visuals and a short punchy headline, but the interactivity of the design is a great way of engaging the reader.

It is also important to note that the “Above the fold content” subsequently encouraged me to want to scroll and scan through the rest of the email.

Designing for above the fold Now as an email designer I am, of course, always conscious of the user's journey and looking for ways of keeping the user focused, something I like to call the design narrative.

Keeping a user engaged is one of the biggest challenges for a designer.

People tend to have very small attention spans and in a world that is full of digital content it becomes even more difficult to keep our users attention.

If we go back to my better half, where she is literally just scrolling until she spots something she likes and wants to read.

Now this isn’t something that is completely new but we have certainly evolved into a generation of scrollers which means that over time user behaviour has certainly changed and scrolling has become intuitive! An email's first impression on its users would usually, you’d expect, depend a lot on its “above the fold” content.

This is the point where we have something like 50 milliseconds to engage our reader.

But are we now at a point in time where if that above the fold content does not engage then we simply scroll on until we find something we do want to read? Or more importantly should the hero be used as an envelope of engagement that makes us want to read more of the same engaging content.

This also begs the question on whether email length is also becoming a redundant best practice to consider.

We previously ran a test on our Email Weekly subscribers as a means of seeing whether the ‘ email fold still existed ’ and if so where it sits.

What we found was that our subscribers were still engaging with the email further down that even we expected.

I had always been under the impression as an email best practice, that the shorter the email - the ‘better’, but have I been wrong?! And considering this change in behaviour, does it give brands the opportunity to pack their emails with more content? Why above the fold best practices are changing A recent article from Nielsen Norman Group reports that in 2010, 80% of the viewing time was spent above the fold.

Today, that number is only 57%.

But why has this happened? Users have become conditioned to scroll — the prevalence of pages requiring scrolling has ingrained that behavior in us.

Content has become much more targeted.

If we are receiving content that is more relevant to us then we are more likely to scroll through what we have received.

Designers are doing a good job of creating visual elements that encourage the reader to scroll.

Whatever the reason is, the fold as a barrier has been pushed down and in my eyes people will scroll if they have a reason to do it.

Content is still King In sight of all of this I agree that we have certainly become a generation of scrollers.

But in saying that it is the content that drives us to become engaged and therefore encourage us to scroll.

We have to be given a reason to scroll! When we mentioned social media previously this example of content is content that we choose to follow and content that we know, if we scroll, we will find something that engages us and we want to read.

Therefore it is the same with email.

If we are presented with content that is relevant to us and engages us then we are much more likely to scroll and open an email from that brand.

For me above the fold has not become redundant.

It is still the first bit of content we see and the 0.05 second window we have to engage our reader both visually and mentally.

I will however say that it is the length of an email that maybe now is an email best practice that does not have as much importance.

It is therefore the “design narrative” as I mentioned before that becomes incredibly important.

It is a journey through an email packed with great content, however long it maybe.

Hence, a well-thought above the fold design should always be coupled with awesome content.

So keep on scrolling! Ben Clay Designer




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