Above the Fold: Is The Fold Dead?

Published: September 9, 2015  by 

What the heck is the fold?!

“The ideal area to place bold introductions, essential information, enticing imagery and call to action elements is above the fold…”- Shaun Cronin

The phrase “above the fold” originated in the newspaper industry. Newspapers are often “folded” so that the top half of the front page is the first thing you see. So, a story “above the fold” is there because it’s important. The web design community eventually caught on to the term and it started to gain popularity in the late 90’s.

When it comes to web design, it’s the same concept as it relates to newspaper layouts. In the web world, it typically refers to anything displayed above the 800px line. For example, strong calls to action and enticing imagery would be found here. This design technique became increasingly valuable as average user time spent on a website continued to decrease.

Does the fold still matter?

In my humble opinion, the fold DOES still matter… it’s just… complicated.

We now live in an era where everywhere you look it seems someone (or, maybe everyone) is on some type of web enabled mobile device. At one point in time websites had the luxury of only dealing with one aspect ratio, i.e. Standard Definition. But in the ever evolving web-olution, now we have HD, Full HD, Ultra HD, and the latest and greatest 4k. These advancements have led to more than 150 different commonly used resolutions for web browsing. Those is just the commonly used ones; there are thousands more. This is just the beginning, folks. The future will undoubtedly present us with more variations and options.

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Statistics show 5% of site visitors are using a mobile device to view your webpage. So your site shouldn’t only work in one resolution, but appropriately respond to all resolutions… i.e. responsive web design. If you’re not familiar with RWD, here are some great resources: This is Responsive. And as the fight for attention in our culture continues, we have less and less time to impact the visitor and convey our message. You can credit this transition to the handy dandy scroll bar.

Smartphones and tablets have started an era of “scroll browsing”. Just like the human brain reads from left to right, it also scrolls from top to bottom. Studies have shown that half of users start scrolling within 10 seconds and 90% within 14 when they land on a website. Stats from MOVR (published in Luke Wroblewski’s tweet)

Think about it… what do you do when you open up Facebook, Twitter or Instagram? You briefly skim over content and/or images and… that’s right, begin to scroll. So is it bad to put important information at the top of your site? No. It’s still good to have valuable content and CTAs at the top, but saying that content has to be above 600px or 800px of the window is no longer valid.

Getting to the point…

As you are planning your site design, consider content placement on all browsing resolutions and its potential impact. Pulling up a site on your mobile device that is clearly not built for the resolution is at minimum an annoyance. Avoiding poor site design is a Win-Win for everyone.

Zoltán Gócza over at UX Myths couldn’t have said it any better:

Although people weren’t used to scrolling in the mid-nineties, nowadays it’s absolutely natural to scroll. For a continuous and lengthy content, like an article or a tutorial, scrolling provides even better usability than slicing up the text to several separate screens or pages.

You don’t have to squeeze everything into the top of your homepage or above the fold. To make sure that people will scroll, you need to follow certain design principles and provide content that keeps your visitors interested. Also keep in mind that content above the fold will still get the most attention and is also crucial for users in deciding whether your page is worth reading at all.

So, what do you think? Where do you see web design going and how will the fold apply? 

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