Every now and then, someone will ask me, why now, haven’t users learned how to scroll? Are we safe if we put information below the page fold? The answer is yes. They’ve learned the mechanics of scrolling and do know that some pages have content below the fold, but they won’t scroll unless they have a reason to do so. To understand why. Let’s take a step back and revisit the information foraging theory which was created at Xerox PARC.
The information foraging theory asserts that people look for information on the Web in the same way in which animals forage for food in the wild. For a bird of prey, for example. Deciding where and what to hunt for depends on how easy it is to get to the prey and on how much energy the prey will provide. Similarly, when people land on a page, they’re usually hungry for an information need or a goal. They decide whether to stay on that page or leave it and go to a different one based on one how promising the information on the page is and to how hard accessing that information is. As the user is looking at a page, they assess how relevant the pages for their needs are. They cannot see anything that seems relevant to them. They won’t bother scrolling and will just assume the page is not what they need. So if a page places all its important information below the fold and uses the first screen full for a hero or a big image, chances are that people may not discover that content below. You want to use the top of the page to announce the type of content available and to give users the most important pieces of information.
So content is a top of the page, is the most discoverable and plays a vital role in users decision to scroll or even stay on the site.