If you’ve been hanging around the Internet for a long time, it’s highly likely that you’ve come across the phrase “above the fold” a number of times. For those in the digital marketing business, it’s a question that clients often ask when they casually mention in it in one of their web design pitches.
So what exactly does “above the fold” mean? Better yet, where can you find this thing they call “the fold?”
The idea of “above the fold” originated from the way newspapers were folded when displayed in newsstands. The purpose is to show to the buying public only the upper half of the paper screaming the catchiest headlines and the most attention-grabbing photographs. There was this perception that the items displayed “above the fold,” were quite effective at attracting people and triggering enough interest in them to buy the paper.
It is this concept of putting the most important things on the upper half to draw attention that the field of web design has taken for its own and implemented in their creations for many years now.
But where is the “fold” on a web page?
Obviously, a website doesn’t have a physical fold the way newspapers do. As far as web pages are concerned, the fold refers to the scroll bar, and any content above the scroll is what’s called “above the fold.” As long as readers or visitors don’t scroll down after opening a page, anything they immediately see is above the fold. And since the content above the fold is the first thing people will see, that part of your site is widely considered as prime real estate.
Its current importance
Although many quarters declare that keeping everything above the fold is already an outdated idea, it continues to be an essential part of web design to this very day. In fact, it’s still considered a “best practice” in web design.
Clients, once apprised of the concept of keeping things above the fold, would want any of their essential information to be right on top. Their concern is understandable because users will likely miss that information if it’s anywhere below the fold. Even content writers have to place money keywords anywhere above the fold for optimization reasons.
The problem with the “above the fold” mindset
Most web designers have the concept of “above the fold” hard-wired into their brains, which is generally good.
However, problems may arise when they become too enthusiastic at implementing the idea of cramming all the important stuff up top, then leave basically nothing but uninteresting material below the fold.
For readers overwhelmed by the attention-grabbing nature of the content above the fold, scrolling down could sometimes prove to be a disappointing exercise because they’ve already consumed all the good stuff the moment they access the page. Once they flick that mouse wheel, they’ll see nothing more that would interest them, so they immediately bounce off to another website.
Squeezing everything into that prime piece of real estate also makes it look cluttered, as it leaves very little white space and compromises its readability.
There’s also the idea that it’s now routine for the new generation of Internet users to scroll down anyway, regardless of what they see above the fold. Then again, this generation’s Internet usage revolves around multiple screen sizes and resolutions, thanks mainly to mobile devices. With varying screen sizes, it’s virtually impossible to pinpoint where the fold lies on a user’s screen.
Still, the idea of catching the attention of people with one glance remains valid. It’s an unassailable concept in marketing and advertising, and that’s why it’s still important to put appealing stuff above the fold to reel them in and make them want to scroll down. Just avoid cramming everything up top so as not to overwhelm visitors. Keep the content below the fold just as exciting and valuable, and users will likely stay and maybe even explore the website more.
What to put above the fold
Since you won’t have to cram all important pieces of information there, which pieces must you place above the fold?
First and foremost would be your logo and any visual information that will identify and showcase your brand. This way, users will know who you are and what you’re all about right off the bat.
If you can create great graphics, then that would be awesome, since the Internet is an incredibly visual world, and gorgeous visuals will always be attention-grabbing. Just make sure that your visuals give off the right first impression and that they clearly convey who you are and what you have to offer.
In a world dominated by social media, putting social media links above the fold would also be a welcome idea. The prime position will make your Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram accounts easier for your visitors to spot and click.
If you have a unique selling point, then don’t hesitate to put it where every single user can immediately see it. It’s the best way of making your visitors know everything that makes you special and worth their time.
The space above the fold is also an excellent place to place navigation elements, although some web designers use the left-hand side or even the bottom of the page for them.
The concept of the fold may be the subject of much debate these days, but its importance will remain for a long time to come. The only thing that web designers need to keep in mind is to simply strike the right balance between the “fold” and usability.
As long as you treat the real estate above the fold as an opportunity to tease readers what’s to come below it, your web page will continue to draw people in, and they will scroll down to check out everything else you have to offer below the fold. Just make sure that what they’ll find there is worth the effort of flicking that scroll wheel on their mouse.
About The Author
Shawn Byrne is the founder and CEO of My Biz Niche, an Arizona-based digital marketing company that has achieved superior results for their clients. Before My Biz Niche, Shawn worked for Venture Capitalists where he built a private portfolio of e-commerce and informational websites that generate revenue through various digital marketing strategies.
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