Marketing people love throwing out clichés. I actually think they spend days thinking up new ones. One that I hear a lot when starting a new design is “above the fold”. For those of you who don’t understand what this means, here’s a brief explanation of the term from Wikipedia:
Above the fold is the upper half of the front page of a newspaper where an important news story or photograph is often located. Papers are often displayed to customers folded so that only the top half of the front page is visible. Thus, an item that is “above the fold” may be one that the editors feel will entice people to buy the paper.
Notice it said the term originally came from newspapers. What does this mean for web design?
Above the fold in web design
When they mention it, they’re talking about the area people see as soon as they come to your site, without having to scroll. So squeezing as much into this area is necessary, right? Well, let’s think about it on a couple of different levels:
Screen size makes a difference
There is no standard screen size. I’m not even talking about tablets or smart phones here. Screen resolution varies between computer to computer, desktop to desktop, laptop to laptop, etc. So when someone says “I need this to be above the fold”, have they decided how big this is? If they have a huge screen, that’s a lot of area! If it’s on a netbook or something, this area could be small.
This is one reason the “above the fold” methodology doesn’t apply to websites. You don’t have just one size of paper that gets folded. Your site displays on a variety of screen sizes and devices. See the difference?
Think above the fold by making sure your content displays nicely on a variety of screen sizes instead of focusing on just one.
User experience is more important
When you pick up a newspaper, do you see a menu that you can point to and the newspaper takes you to the information you’re requesting by itself? No?
Your website does.
If someone arrives at your website, chances are they’ve come for a reason. If you have a user-friendly site, you don’t have to worry about squeezing as much information into the “above the fold” area. Your visitors will be able to get the information they want on your site by using the navigation items on your site.
By allowing users to reach the content they’re looking for easily you’re allowing them to find more content than they ever could in a single block.
Think above the fold by worrying more about building a great user experience than stuffing as much content into a single area.
Visitors scan first, read later
Most visitors don’t read your web page, at least not at first. They scan your page and if it seems its something that interests them or they have time to read, they’ll go back up and start reading.
What can you do to catch a visitor’s attention?
Pictures. They’re worth a thousand words. They have pretty colors. Users can gain some info without reading. You love it. They love it. Do it.
You can also add some text in bold, use short paragraphs or anything else that could catch the attention.
Doing these kinds of things actually makes the page easier to read and helps keep the attention of your visitors.
Think above the fold by making your web pages easier to scan and read
What do you think?
What are your thoughts on “above the fold” in design? If you agree or disagree or have some other points to share, I’d love to hear about it.
Please leave a comment below!