If we follow the traditional rules of web design, then the further you go down the page, the less important the information that you find. And as a result, we have a self-fulfilling prophecy: Users expect to find less interesting and relevant information – so UX designers don’t generally give the footer space the attention it deserves.
However, the advent of the smartphone and tablet are in many ways rewriting the rules of digital customer experience. Companies are increasingly building mobile-first webpages, rather than simply optimizing a desktop version. But there’s more to mobile-first than responsive layouts. Mobile-first best practices mean paying attention to every detail, including the mobile website footer.
Among the many heatmap observations on the differences between mobile and desktop user behavior, it was found that mobile users tend to scroll much further down the page. In fact, most mobile users scroll straight down to the footer – making this part of the site almost as important as the header. UX professionals are therefore being forced to apply the same website engagement and optimization rules without discrimination to both top and bottom of the webpage.
Clicktale Scroll Reach heatmap for desktop sites
Here we can see a scroll reach heatmap for the Clicktale desktop site. Users stayed mainly in the top half of the page (indicated by the dark red) and scrolled less as they descended below the halfway mark (as the dark red turns into yellow).
Now, compare this to the desktop heatmap to that of the mobile version of the same website.
Clicktale Scroll Reach heatmap for mobile sites
In this Scroll Reach mobile heatmap you can clearly see that the high engagement, represented by the red coloration, continues most of the way down the page to the mobile footer.
WHY IS THE MOBILE FOOTER IMPORTANT?
The swipe to scroll function is the main reason why the footer gets far more exposure on mobile sites compared to desktop. It’s simply that much easier to reach the bottom of the page when a single finger swipe or two will do it.
In contrast, the often poor user experience of scrolling on desktop makes users stop scrolling far more quickly. And without mobile’s momentum scrolling, users are far less likely to ever reach the footer of a desktop site.
2. Horizontal layout discourages scroll.
A further heatmap observation has to do with the layout of the page. Horizontal layouts tend to prevent people from scrolling and clicking, whereas vertical layouts do the opposite. Due to the narrow shape of the iPhone screen and some other mobile devices then, a vertical layout works best – and therefore encourages further scrolling down the page!
IDEAS TO MAKE BETTER USE OF FOOTER REAL ESTATE
1. Mirror your header.
If you find that users are just as engaged with your footer as your header, then why not adapt your mobile footer design to give them the same navigation functions at both the top and the bottom of the page?
2. Provide additional information.
Footers can be easily used to convey additional useful information that you can’t display on the header, including the contact form, subscriptions, blog, careers page and more.
3. Further reading material.
Many sites will use the footer to promote additional content from their website, blogs, forum discussions or even external links related to the subject matter. These all help to ‘soft sell’ and nurture the visitor further.
4. RSS Feed, social share icons, media and search function.
Many sites place these functions at the bottom of the site, particularly if the page is long and content heavy.
5. Don’t waste this space on SEO and advertisement spam.
If you lack what to place in your footer then consider something artistic or illustrative that will help to improve the overall digital customer experience of your site, and build your brand. Many sites like to include illustrations of the ground (buildings, earth, grass, trees etc.) and using the proximity to the ground and a clear differentiation in color, to clearly mark off the footer from the main body of the site.
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