You may have heard the phrase “above the fold” when referring to content or calls-to-action on a website. Below is a bit of information on what it is, and why it’s no longer important when designing and developing a site.
Where did “the fold” come from, and why would I want anything to be above it?
To compete with each other, newspapers need to put their best stories front and center. When the newspaper is folded and stacked, the headlines on the top half of the front page stay visible. The more enticing the content, the more likely someone will pick up the paper to explore further, or even buy a copy.
What’s “the fold” when referring to websites?
Since there’s no paper involved, “the fold” is the area of the website that’s instantly visible on page load – everything before the bottom of the user’s screen. Since there are many types of devices and screen resolutions being used by internet-goers, “the fold” isn’t a fixed size. 100% of the users’ screen height can be as small as 320 pixels, and larger than a couple thousand.
When the Internet was still young, it was important to give users everything they needed right away. Users were new to digital interfaces, and going from page to page was very much a learning experience, and a bit of a chore. Placing featured content and calls-to-action at the top of the page seemed to do the trick.
In the late ’00s, the widespread adoption of social media was a key factor in changing how people use the Internet. Long-scrolling news feeds like Facebook and Twitter had users immediately start scrolling when they landed on the site. Users were getting better at scrolling past what they weren’t interested in, and stopping on what they wanted to read.
Users now continue this behaviour on other websites – they land, take a quick visual overview, then start scrolling. The trick then, is getting them to the information they want.
Making all of your important content visible at the same time can be overwhelming to users, and can diminish its importance. If everything is special, nothing is.
Spreading your calls-to-action out over your page is a good way to let users read the content they want to read, scroll past the content they want to skip, and not feel like you’re constantly trying to sell them something.
What about the users who aren’t as active on social media?
There’s still an audience of users who aren’t familiar with the long-scrolling news feeds of social media, and therefore, may not know that there’s more to the page. The site’s design, then, should use visual cues to lead them to scroll.
Chevron scroll-buttons and slight animations can instruct users to scroll past large impact areas, while sites with shorter headers can show lead-ins to the content below.
Keeping your content prioritized ensures that users see your most important content first, but there’s no longer a need for them to see it all at once.