I hear this all the time from website clients that key items need “to be above the fold.” It’s understandable why people think this and it’s not entirely untrue. However, as a designer you have to stay on top of emerging trends; not only in design but in technology as well or, frankly, no one will hire you except your mom. Design is becoming simpler, single page sites are all the rage (that’s when your whole site is on one really long page and you must….scroll!) and monitor size has run a muck! Laptops, desktops, tablets, phones, maybe even TV’s. I become less and less concerned about this proverbial fold with each passing second so why are we still so worried about it? Let’s investigate this further.
A Brief History
The term “above the fold” dates back to the days of the thriving newspaper. Newspapers are made of paper and we actually “fold” them, in the same place, every day. Newspapers come in stands or sit in stacks and you can only see the top part of the whole paper, or the part that is above the fold. If you didn’t have your hottest headlines and sexiest pictures on that top part then you wouldn’t sell as many papers. Then superman would be out of a job and the world would end. Above the fold was very important.
Jump Ahead a Few Years
The Internet shows up somewhere in the early 90’s and we have no idea what to expect or even how to use it. In fact, if the newspaper people knew then what they know now they wouldn’t have put their content up there for free and in effect drove themselves out of business. Whoops. But I digress.
When something new comes along we take what we already know and adapt. So with web design we kept the above the fold mentality and maintained that you still must keep your main and best stuff above the fold (or in this case within the visual space of the monitor) or you would lose valuable conversions and the world would end. Well, back in the day this wasn’t entirely untrue. People didn’t know how to use the Internet. Scrolling? What’s that? But we have come a long, long way and some of those old rules, they just don’t apply anymore…as much.
We have become a pretty Internet savvy group. We know how to use sites; they’ve become self-evident, or at least self-explanatory. We know how to recognize the things we are looking for like search bars, links and social media buttons. We expect logos and search bars to be on top and contact info in the footer. Basically, we know how to get around.
Back to the Point
Content is king. When visitors come to a site they are looking for something, and they’ll scroll and click looking for it. But not forever. Usability is the key factor, but that’s a separate topic for a different post. Capture your audience’s attention with gripping content that gives them a taste of what they’ll find. An epic headline. A captivating picture. Eye-catching design. But put everything above the fold? No. That screams busy, no focal point, no key-engaging element, jumbled, I’m leaving. We are bombarded with so much info everyday. If we do anything good, it’s tune out. Keep it simple.
Let’s also talk about this “fold.” Where is that again? From wide-screen desktop computers to kindles to iPhones; well, the fold changes. Not to mention what’s easier on an iPhone and an iPad? We can swipe, aka scroll, up and down that screen with the greatest of ease. Just to be nerdy here are some statistics: according to ClickTales 2007 Scrolling Research report study 76% of users scroll a major extent of the site, on average ¾ of the way down, and 22% to the very bottom. As for me, the first thing I do when I go to a site is scroll up and down the whole site just to take it all in before I make any major decisions on my best course of action. But maybe I’m weird. Did you know most people read magazines from back to front? I do that to. When was the last time you went to Facebook and didn’t scroll?
Content is king and less is more. Grab my attention with something smart and simple that gets to the point. If you can do that, I promise I’ll scroll for more.