In my last post, I tried to explain why people are so much more likely to interact with content at the top or bottom of a page than they are to interact with content in the middle by presenting the case of Mary, a hypothetical shopper.

In that example, I proposed that when Mary wanted to buy a new hat, she used the navigation at the top of online stores to get herself directly to the accessories section, thus eliminating the need to scroll on the site’s home page entirely.

I also proposed that if Mary had questions about her hat or returning it, she would scroll directly to the foot of the page without looking at any of the content in between, because she knew that was the most likely place to find links to frequently asked questions, small print and contact information.

Knowing the truth of these examples, there are those who then conclude that following a standardized layout that users can predict is a bad thing.

Whoa there partner. Hold your horses.

Yes, you can force someone to look at more of your wares if you make them wander around lost on your site for awhile.

Are frustrated, angry people who think you are incompetent – and make no mistake web sites that are difficult to use reflect directly on your perceived professionalism (check out my recent study on this topic) – likely to make impulse purchases in your shop?

Consider this instead: When Mary arrived in the hat section of the online store, do you think she scrolled through the store’s entire collection to find her perfect hat? Yes, statistically speaking, she does: But only after she has navigated deeply enough into the site to feel satisfied that the content she is seeing applies directly to her interests.

The more targetted information seems to a visitor, the more likely they are to engage with the entirety of it. Make it easy for them to find their way to the thing that they most want, and they’ll look at more of it.

And they’ll buy more of it.

Instead of trying to get all our special sales and other offers above the fold, perhaps we should be focusing instead on making sure that the most crucial navigation (and search box!) is immediately visible upon arriving on a site, to help people get to the information they actually want to engage with.

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