About a decade ago I had the pleasure of working on my first website project with a professional graphic designer. At the time I was employed by an enterprise software company and my role was the head of marketing.
As we progressed through the graphic design process, my boss (the company president) was absolutely adamant about the entire home page showing “above the fold” on this laptop. At the time he was spot on and this was considered a best practice for web design.
All of our design decisions were made around this core element and I knew we would not launch the new site until we validated that all content was shown above the fold on his laptop. We literally tested this and viewed multiple pieces of content through the eyes of his laptop.
I was reminded of that project today as I read an blog post called There is No Fold by Luke Wroblewski. Luke effortlessly tackles this topic and explains that today’s devices are geared towards scrolling, that users expect to scroll, and that many devices don’t even have a fold. While Luke’s article is brief, this illustrations clearly show the evolution of web browsing and the design that guides it.
Viewing Web Design in Modern Terms
Let’s move forward ten years and look at website design in 2015. We design mobile responsive websites that are displayed on devices of all shapes and sizes. Large desktop monitors, small 13 inch laptops, iPads, and iPhones are all used to view and digest website content. There is no longer one baseline device, but a myriad of devices that provide ultimate flexibility for website users.
Given the diversity in website viewing, you would assume website owners no longer care about the displaying content above the fold. Sadly they do and we are still asked for this type of design. When I say asked, I mean we are asked often.
Did you know the concept of “above the fold” started with a hardcopy newspaper and was geared towards placing exciting content above the fold so people would buy the paper from the newsstand?
When was the last time you bought a website and/or viewed it standing outside at a newsstand? Exactly.
The concept of above the fold is irrelevant in today’s website design and it should be banished along with the comic sans font and dancing pizza gif images. While both of those are still in use on my PTA newsletter, neither should be allowed in professional website design projects. These design elements, along with the above the fold requirement, should be sent far far away.
Letting Go of the Above the Fold Myth
If I’ve not yet convinced you of longer web pages, let me take you through a few points to help illustrate why this concept is invalid for modern website design:
- We live in a multi-screen world so there is no common device size. The above the fold requirement was mainstream when the computer monitors had resolution sizes that were 800px x 600px. This small and limited screen size no longer exists – or only does in a very small amount of use cases. The fold in that scenario is at 600px. On my current monitor my fold is set 1,400px and this is temporary because I regularly read and browse content on my iPad mini which makes the 1,400px quickly irrelevant.
- Website users know how to scroll and they expect to scroll. – My iPhone and iPad are designed to scroll. With a simple movement of my finger on the screen, I scroll and move down a web page with little effort. It is ingrained into my being, because that is how modern devices work.
My mind knows this so scrolling isn’t obtrusive, it is intuitive.
- You simply can’t tell a convincing story in 600px. – If your website is of any value and you have a true story to tell, it will take more than 600px of space. And that’s okay because a story unfolds as the reader digests the information. This means the user will read, digest the information, and continue to scroll just as they flip a page in an interesting book.
- The phrase above the fold pertains to newspapers and not websites. – We cannot allow an antiquated concept focused on a piece of paper dictate the design of an electronic website. It simply does not make logical sense with modern websites.
- Call to actions don’t need to be above the fold to convert visitors. – If you want me to take action on your website you need to first gain my trust by showing me you can provide value to me specifically. This takes information and it takes solid content that is written for me, your website visitor. You cannot easily gain my trust and educate me in 600px. You are much better off leading me down a vertical and scrolling path of education followed by a targeted, easy to understand call to action. Only then will you have me emotionally bought in enough to take real action.
Embracing the Concept of User Focused Design
User centric website design is focused on providing quality content and solving a visitor’s problem. Whether you offer services or sell a physical product, your goal is to convert website visitors into taking action. Producing high conversion rates has much less to do with location (is it above the fold), and much more to do with the content’s ability to connect with the visitor and provide a solution.
Remember that scrolling isn’t obtrusive, it is intuitive. Worry less about the fold and focus more on connecting with your website visitors.
If you need help converting your above the fold website into a modern piece of motivation, we’d like to help. Contact us and let us start unfolding your story in a manner that is device independent and user friendly.