Why “Above The Fold” is a Myth

Above The Fold is a term that comes from the newspaper heyday. Remember newspapers? When newspapers were sold they were folded in half and the very first thing people saw – the very items that SOLD that newspaper, were printed “above the fold”. This of course tended to be the most important information – the main headline for that day’s newspaper.

When the web came along, it was assumed that “above the fold” was still true; that all the important information needed to be at the very top – and accessible PRIOR to scrolling the browser. This MAY have been true way back when in the olden times of web (you know, 1998) – but it is true no more.

Here’s why.

People Scroll Too Fast

The reality is that people will scroll down during their web searches. Seventy-five percent of your website viewers scroll before the page fully loads.

Due to this scrolling, more engagement actually happens right at and below “the fold”. While the initial view is above the fold, that’s not where people spend their time.

This could influence your placement of your Call to Action – the thing you want them to click or download or do. It’s still a good practice to have a CTA above or at the fold, but maybe you should consider other placements as well.

In one case study, a challenger call to action was placed on a page with 20 times the content of the control page. The call on the challenger page had 30 percent more engagement.

View-Ability Isn’t Viewing

Just because the ads are more visible by about 28 percent above the fold doesn’t mean people see them more. The actual views go to ads placed right at the bottom of the page window.

Because there are so many different screen sizes, people may have a false “fold” in their web pages that discourages scrolling down. With the advent of adaptive techniques that help you to position content relative to the size of the screen, observing the fold line is not necessary.

It’s better to design using adaptive techniques so that you don’t either create a fold where there isn’t one or hide content underneath a fold that is real.

People Read Below the Fold

The Nielsen Norman Group produced research showing that users spend 80 percent of their time below the fold. While people may see what’s above the fold initially, they aren’t giving it a lot of attention.

The trick is to draw the reader’s eye down using great design.

You also need to put enough enticing content on your page for people to want to read it. You can do this by carefully balancing marketing and content visually.

Adaptive techniques will get you only so far when it comes to getting people to read your webpage. If you write nonsense or ramble at length, you’ve just weakened your calls to action.

User testing can reveal a lot about what people read. The research that has been done in this area provides a jumping off point for companies and other groups to find out more about what kind of reading goes on where.

Don’t be afraid to dive in.

People Will Scroll No Matter What

A design test by the firm Huge tested four versions of a web page. Virtually everyone scrolled. It didn’t make much difference whether there was an animated, static, or other version of the web page.

People might scroll for several reasons. They could be looking for something specific, or they could be responding to good design that tells them there’s a lot to see.

Behavior on the internet is still largely a mystery, as the screen sizes and media have evolved so rapidly as to inhibit large amounts of study. And of course the use of mobile devices changes everything.

The truth is that people know there are many types of web designs. There’s no need to adhere to antiquated myths that don’t offer any benefit.

Sticking to a rule for design from the 19th century newspaper industry or the 1990’s web world, really doesn’t help design move forward. Worse, it doesn’t reflect the current user’s reality.

People have many different screen sizes. They can even customize the size of the browser window on most devices. There’s not a solid way to determine where the fold lies or if it even exists anymore.

So free yourself from this bizarre design restraint. You have amazing content to share with your viewers. Put it together in an enticing way, and get lots of user testing if you’re unsure.

Huge noted that remote user testing has its problems. Consider in-person testing if you’re unsure of something and it’s really bothering you or affecting your design budget.

So put down the newspaper, get out your favorite browser, and scroll away!