Analyzing the Impact of the Digital Fold

[Originally published on the ClickTale blog]

In the traditional world, we talk about the importance of being “above the fold”: appearing in the top half of the front page of a newspaper. However, on the web the picture is a little murkier. Website visitors will use different screen resolutions, browsers, window sizes and toolbars, essentially leading to a different “fold” line for every user.

Add in the proliferation of devices (desktop, laptop, tablet, smartphone) and the challenges are further compounded. So is there even the same impact of content being above or below the fold for online users as there is in the traditional world? Might this impact vary by user, by site, or by page?

Staying Above or Scrolling Below the Fold?

On pages such as a home page, the location of content above or below the fold may have a greater impact. After all, when a visitor arrives to a site, they need to figure out what content or products to dive deeper into. In this case, products or content areas highlighted in the top area of the page may receive higher engagement, simply due to the higher number of “eyeballs” on it during an evaluation phase.

However, the same may not hold true for deeper pages within the site, or for all-in-one landing pages. On a product detail page, where reviewing the content on the page may be crucial for making a decision to proceed to the next step, the click-through rate for a call to action at the bottom of the page could potentially be higher than a call to action at the top of the page.

Impact of Your Calls to Action

The impact of the fold may also depend on the call to action that you are measuring. For example, the ad click through rate may be affected differently by placement above or below the fold than lead submission or an Add To Cart call to action.

How To Analyze Actual Behavior

Design can play a huge role. In some cases, site design may make it clear to the user that there is content below the fold, and encourage content consumption lower on the page.

We can’t just assume the fold affects our site, or that it affects all pages in the same way. We’ll want to start by analyzing actual behavior.

1. Examine your site’s pages (or types of pages) separately. The behavior on your home page may not be the same as your landing pages or product pages. Start with your most important pages and go from there.

2. Use a traditional web analytics tool to give you an idea of the device and screen or browser size your visitors typically use, to start to understand where they see the fold on their machine. However, as you analyze, keep in mind there is no true fold – it is different for every user based on their settings.

To make the data feel more real, change your own computer settings to match your typical visitor, and encourage your creative or design team to do the same. Browse your site using these settings and you’ll get a better idea of what different visitors see and where on their screen it is located.

3. Ensure you are tracking individual calls to action on your pages in enough detail so you can understand (for example) above vs. below the fold performance. While many web analytics solutions will allow you to see if visitors moved on to the next step, if you have two calls to action on the page that link to the same next step, one above the fold and one below, you’ll want to be sure your analytics tool allows you track them separately.

4. Use an In-page analytics tool to understand interaction within your pages. While understanding click-through rate of your calls to action above and below the fold can help, that doesn’t necessarily tell you how many users actually saw the call to action.

5. Take time to segment this information. A good place to start would be the by the different screen and browser resolutions you have already examined. Try bucketing different settings, to analyze a group of visitors.

However, another consideration may be landing page. A visitor who has just landed on the page you are analyzing may be less apt to engage with content below the fold than one who has pathed to the page looking for specific content or products, and is looking to dive into detail about these.

Users looking at different products may also show different behavior. For example, a $5.99 purchase may require less engagement with product details and result in less below the fold engagement than a product that is $599.

6. Start testing. Once you have insights from these sources, you can begin to test the impact of changing them. What if you remove some of the content and make the product detail page shorter? Or move your call to action above or below the fold, or test having one above and one below? What about the left vs. right hand side of the page?

Conducting A/B or Multivariate tests of your layout, and tracking the behavior of these separately, can give you much more insight than pure analysis, because you can see the impact of actually changing things.

Overcoming the Complexity of the Digital Fold

There is definitely a complexity to be managed in analyzing the digital “fold”, but there are also great solutions out there to help us better understand user behavior within the page, and to optimize it for a better user experience and business results.


A month of fun with ClickTale

As a self-confessed geek, when I hear about a new tool and there’s a free option I can play with, I naturally implement it right away. After hearing the Beyond Web Analytics podcast discussed ClickTale, I took the opportunity to implement it on my blog for a little “new analytics tool fun”.

After a month playing around with this tool, here are some of my impressions:

Unique value

It is not merely repeating with what your Google Analytics, Omniture, WebTrends, etc tracking tells you. There is a definitely unique value. Think of the standard web analytics tools as telling you visitor’s behaviour between pages (e.g. visitors go from page X to page Y, exit at page Z.) ClickTale tells you what they do within a page (how far down do they scroll? Do they start filling in your form? What do they click? Where does their mouse move?)

Recordings of a site visit

One of the original offerings of the ClickTale was simply recordings of your visitors’ behaviour on your site. You literally watch users scroll up and down, click a link, go to another page, etc. It’s like sitting over their shoulder, or user testing without the option to ask them why they did something. However, no one can possibly watch all the videos, especially on a large site. The real value of the tool is what ClickTale added next: the aggregation of all of those videos into heat maps.

Aggregated heat maps

You can view an aggregated heat map of:

  • Mouse moves
  • Clicks
  • Scroll reach
  • Attention (via mouse attention)

The scroll reach is pretty interesting, especially on a blog, since normally the main page is a six-mile-long history of previous blog posts, and it’s interesting to see how far down people scroll.

ClickTale uses mouse over attention to estimate eye tracking (due to the correlation between the two) but are pretty clear that they don’t intend this to be a perfect replacement of eye tracking, merely an affordable way to get close to that kind of information.

Example heat maps:

So as you’ll see, the value of the heat maps is:

  1. Not having to troll through multiple videos for insights. That’s just not possible with a site with millions of visitors.
  2. In-page information that definitely complements what is provided by your standard web analytics tool.

For a blog specifically, the heatmaps can also be a way to see what of your content people are reading. If a visitor clicks to read a specific post, obviously you know they took this action even in a standard web analytics tool. However, where they read a blog post on the main page, ClickTale can fill in the gaps of what they read via scrolling and attention. This is a great insight missing from a standard tool.

A concern for frequently updated sites (such as blogs) might be the impacts of a site changing throughout the day, via adding new posts. Never fear, that has been taken care of: you can choose which version of a page you want to view the heatmaps for, if there are multiple versions throughout a timeframe.

Some other nifty features:

Form analytics

I only saw a demo of this, as my site isn’t really form-heavy, but to be honest, this thing rocks. Who starts filling in a field then stops? Who has to refill in a form? How much time do they take to fill in each field? What is form engagement vs form submission? This information is much richer than a “X number saw the page that had the form on it, then Y% saw the thank you page.” It’s pretty awesome. Check out this demo of it on ClickTale’s site:

Page and Site Analytics

ClickTale will also tell you which of your pages are the:

  • Most engaging
  • Most clicked
  • Most errored
  • Least scrolling
  • Slowest loading

The engagement time is pretty sweet also. In a world of tabbed browsing, a visitors may come to your site, read your post, but not close the page. (“Tick, tick, tick” goes Google Analytics time on site.) I myself tend to have multiple browser tabs open with links I’ve clicked from Twitter. ClickTale measures the time they actually spend engaged with the page, via mouse moves etc. It’s a richer metric than time on site.


I’ve only mentioned some of the functionality of ClickTale that I enjoyed. There are also options to search, find and watch videos matching certain criteria (e.g. videos from visitors coming in through search, or seeing a certain page – great for watching playback of site errors.) There is also an option for Omniture integration, which I didn’t try (as my blog doesn’t use Omniture) but is nice knowing it’s there for enterprise use.

All in all, my conclusion: ClickTale doesn’t replace a standard web analytics tool (nor do they claim it does, or should) but it’s a great supplement to give you more in-depth information about what people do on a page. I believe a clear competitor for this product is TeaLeaf, which I have seen a demo of, but not been in a position to use. The main thing that sways me towards ClickTale, even on an enterprise basis, is the price tag. TeaLeaf definitely seems a more costly solution. Now, it’s completely possible that TeaLeaf’s price tag is justified by the functionality; I haven’t used it so I can’t speak to the differences. But unfortunately, the reason I haven’t used TeaLeaf is because I couldn’t get past the price tag …

The best part?

Very easy to implement: Two lines of code (I could implement it. ‘Nuff said.) And seriously – all of this with only two lines of code. No special click tracking or form tracking. It’s as easy as implementing Google Analytics.

FREE! They have a free version that you can use on small volume sites. Plenty for us web analytics geeks to play around with! Now, there’s some functionality you miss out on with the free version, but it’s plenty to get you into the tool and allow you to evaluate whether the insights may be worth a small investment.


I was fortunate enough to be given the opportunity to use ClickTale on my blog at an enterprise level access (thank you, ClickTale and Shmuli Goldberg!) Some of the features may only be available via paid subscriptions, and not in the free version, but the free version is definitely of value and worth checking out.

However, also keep in mind I used it on my blog, not on a larger corporate website. There may be some functionality that I’d like to have on a larger site that I didn’t notice was missing, just because of the size of the site I was looking at. I don’t claim this tool is the magic cure for any of your analytics ills, but it’s definitely worth looking at, to see if it might help answer some of the questions left open by your standard analytics tool.

Plus? It’s fun!