Above the fold originally referred to the content on the top front page of a newspaper. The main headliners that would entice readers to pick it up and read it. This methodology has been adapted to the world of web and refers to the content you see when you land on a website, before you scroll.
There is a fear that users don’t scroll, therefore if it’s below the fold they won’t read it. This has inspired the idea that everything needs to be crammed together to fit above the fold so that when someone lands on the page, they aren’t missing anything important.
And so, there is a divide. There are those who push for “above the fold” design because they believe users don’t scroll and there are those who swear that the rule no longer applies because there is no one true fold. Which side is right? To answer this question, let’s unpack some myths.
Myth: “Above the Fold” Doesn’t Matter
Bust: Of course it does.
Every website has a “fold” a point where the viewable portion of a site is hidden. And this area is prime real estate for your company/brand. The problem is the fold is all over the place.
The location of the fold has a very wide range dependent on the type of device, browser and individual user settings. And while you can design and develop to account for all of these, or at least for the most popular of these, there’s a way better solution.
What’s above the fold does really matter. Think of the area above the fold like a first date. You don’t want to lay everything out on the table all at once. They’ll get overwhelmed and be backing out the door. But at the same time, you don’t want to appear boring. Keep the viewer interested so they continue to scroll and learn more. So that when you present them with a proposal or Call to Action (CTA), they say yes and click!
But wait. What if they don’t scroll to see the rest of the content? Do users scroll?
Myth: Users Don’t Scroll
Bust: Users DO Scroll
When the world wide web first came about, scrolling wasn’t inherent. Users were used to having a window or dialog boxes that were constrained with a series of next buttons to navigate them from section to section. But computers and websites have come a long way since then. And if you’re reading this… well look at that! You scrolled.
A study done by Clicktale revealed that 76% of views on pages with a scroll bar scrolled and 22% of them scrolled all the way to the bottom.1
So, yes, users do and know how to scroll. The problem is users don’t read every word. Have you ever found yourself aimlessly scrolling through Facebook, Pinterest or YouTube, wondering “How did I get here?” Users are prone to scroll until something catches their eye.
We’ve already talked about how interesting and relevant content is important. Now let’s marry that with well thought out design. Use of appropriate images, headlines and buttons will grasp users’ attention as they skim a page. Be sure that the main points of your page stand out and that the user can easily find the CTA.
Don’t put all of your focus on the area above the fold. First focus on the content. Make sure you pare done what is and isn’t important. And then work on designing that content into the page to make it visually interesting. Break it up and encourage the user to scroll. Give them a user experience that keeps them looking for more. And be sure to make the important parts stand out, especially the CTA.