February 20, 2018 –

Does the fold still exist?

Author: Leah Benzie
Leah Benzie
Digital Account Manager
Photo by: Roman Kraft
The fold is a contentious subject amongst web developers. Once a concept deemed canon, it’s now up for debate. Some hold onto its value, insisting it’s an essential element of website design. Others claim it’s a myth that offers no real benefit.

It’s fair to say at the very least though, that its usefulness has evolved over time.

The phrase originated from broadsheet newspapers and was translated to the web in the 1990’s.

In newspaper parlance, the fold is the top half that you see when you initially pick it up from the stack. Anything ‘above the fold’ was considered more valuable from a PR/marketing/editor’s perspective than that below, as it was more likely to be taken in at first sight by the reader, therefore giving it a better chance to be seen. It also made for more lurid headlines – as a quick glance at an intriguing headline improved newspaper sales.

In web speak then, being above the fold refers to what appears on screen when you first visit a website. Most marketers/developers would consider it necessary to have essential information and clear ‘calls to action’ visible above the fold as that’s the best chance of securing the user’s attention and getting potential sales/business.

When you think of the earlier days of website design, this is understandable given older internet connections and the consumer technology available. With pages taking an age to load, it certainly made sense that the stuff you can see at the top is key information. Having said that though, it’s quite hard to determine just what is key information.

After all, if it’s on your website then it’s useful info, right?

In the past many developers and marketers would opt to cram as much information as possible at the top of the page, leading to ‘top heavy’ design. While conveying a mass of information, it often conveyed too much, with users overwhelmed.

The challenge was to counterbalance good design with useful info. Nowadays, it’s less essential to get that balance right.

Technology has negated the need for the fold to a degree. With scrolling much easier (literally swiping a finger), people are more naturally inclined to scroll. The trickier bit is giving them a reason to do so in the first place, so your website needs to be suitably beguiling to make them stay on the page and explore further.

Of course, the fold does still exist to an extent. If what you display at the top of your page is complete dross then potential customers/clients are going to be put off from the start and unlikely to attempt to discover the genuinely useful info you want them to see.

But what it does boil down to is user experience and the customer journey. Of course navigation and user experience is absolutely key when it comes to successful website design, but with appropriate sign posting and taking into account how users use websites nowadays (the use of onsite searches for example), the impact of the fold is massively reduced. After all, and especially so for consumers, how many people complain about having to scroll down to get to the next page of search results in Google? Or have issues with scrolling down their Facebook and Twitter feeds?

But while scrolling may now be second nature, it’s important to be concise and inviting with your website design. If you understand the customer journey you can maximise user experience. This is where we can help. Our web design expertise gives us the knowhow of just what is essential when it comes to creating a customer journey, including what should be above the fold and what can be left safely further down the page. Of course, as a business, you’ll have an idea of what you want your customers/clients to see, but we offer a guiding hand to help you get the best from your website homepage.