You’ve probably heard of it…? The phrase ‘above the fold’ has been brandished about shamelessly in Web Design and Digital Marketing circles for a good decade now, in reference to the layout of content on any given webpage.
‘Above the fold’ [as applies to Web Design] – “the portion of a Web page that is visible in a browser’s window when the page first loads. The portion of the page that requires scrolling in order to see content is called “below the fold.”
Originating from the Newspaper industry and referencing the need to place important content on the top half of the front page (above the literal fold), in order to entice people into buying, and then reading the paper – the rule was adopted by the digital world in the early days of web design.
The ‘above the fold’ concept for Web Design revolved around statistics outlining online users unwillingness to scroll – such as “80% of users engage with content above the fold, and only 20% below”… which made sense! In the early days of online familiarity people would quickly leave a website to go find another (often within 10 seconds) if what we first saw (content above the fold) didn’t quench our query.
However, there are a number of modern-day advancements and indicators that have us questioning…
Is the ‘above the fold’ concept still relevant…?
(Because any traditional that stems from the Newspaper Industry surely needs to have its relevant impact questioned… right?)
- Users have become much more accustomed with scrolling
- Smartphones and tablets have also blurred the whereabouts of the ‘fold line’ with so many different screen sizes
- Touch screen devices have made the nature of scrolling much more natural and easier
- Social applications such as Facebook and Intagram have engrained scrolling a part of our everyday lives
Even Apple removed the scrollbar as standard for Mac OS X in 2013, suggesting we no longer needed the visual prompt to encourage scrolling!
And there are plenty of studies to back up the opinion that:
The ‘above the fold’ model is outdated…
- “Almost all participants scrolled, no matter what”, – Everybody Scrolls, by Huge design agency, Dec. 2014
- “Positions slightly below the fold… typically have both high viewership and high engagement”, – Scroll behavior across the web, by Chartbeat data analytics, Aug. 2013
- Data from over 80,000 page views showed “76% were scrolled… 22% all the way to bottom” , – Scrolling Report, By ClickTale heatmap service providers, 2007
- 2 billion page views determined “66% of attention on a normal media page is spent below the fold”, – What You Think You Know About the Web Is Wrong, published by Time, 2014
- Content at the bottom of the page was proven MOST engaged in a study of both TMZ.com and AOL’s Money & Finance homepages, – Blasting the Myth of the Fold, by Milissa Tarquini
The evidence is clear… the ‘above the fold’ theory is officially debunked… BUT…!
While these studies all show quite clearly that the concept of cramming valuable information ‘above the fold’ on modern webpages is outdated, and an ultimately unnecessary/non-useful web design practice… they also all (deliberately or inadvertently) allude to the fact that ‘above the fold’ still holds some significance.
Yes, people can easily, and are willing to scroll through a webpage… however, the information ‘above the fold’ needs to entice scrolling!
As Life Below 600PX quite wittily explains, a good web page encourages the modern ‘scroll-willing’ visitor to explore below the surface of the fold:
The ‘above the fold’ concept of cramming important information at the top of your website is outdated – based off old web user behavior, before scrolling was so easily accessible/acceptable.
Modern website visitors are more than willing to scroll. Its second nature… and with the right encouragement from compelling, well thought-out content above the fold, below the fold content can in fact get even more attention.
For help finding the most valauble balance with your website content – with ‘above the fold’ engagement, that exploits your visitors willingness to scroll, and utilizing the entirety of your page to promote conversion… contact the design experts at Webfirm today!
Comparisons can be drawn between web design and other forms of human creative expression… where as we follow rules or guidelines, until we advance enough to test these boundaries, and new standards are accepted.
In art… the emotional glorification of Romanticism was tested by the contemporary truth of Realism, which in turn were challenged by the perceptive acknowledgments of Impressionism, etc. etc… (sorry if we lost you there…)
Basically, Web Design is in a period of change… we have become so accustomed to the ways of the Internet since we first gained access a mere 25 years ago… and standards that may have been previously deemed essential for successful user experience, such as index column to the left hand side, and all important content above the fold, are no longer rules that should be followed blindly.
But its important to remember this is a period of change, not dramatic revolt (don’t try and force Picasso on Michelangelo’s audience)… you should still respect and consider the importance of the former ‘above the fold’ theory when exploring newer below the fold capabilities — use compelling content above the fold to entice your scroll-willing audience to explore an entire webpage.
Creating quality, compelling and well-thought out content that users can genuinely engage with appears to be the common denominator in the change of both SEO rankings factors, and now the debunking of the ‘above the fold’ idealism.