Above the fold” on the web – does it matter?

Reading time: about 4 minutes

The hard truth is this – you’re more likely to read this intro than what’s at the bottom of the page. But what about that bit of content that’s just below the bottom of your screen right now?

The term above the fold” originates from printed newspapers that are often presented and sold folded in half. Because of that form factor, designers make careful strategic decisions about the position of content, because it’ll affect whether people pick up the newspaper at all.

What about the web? The equivalent of the fold” is arguably the bottom of your screen, before you start scrolling. Where that fold point is will depend on the size of your screen. But does it matter? Should we treat websites like printed material?

Scrolling is easier than reading

Amiga with an old mouse

There is a popular misconception that scrolling is hard. And anything hard should be avoided. And, to be fair, at one point in the history of technology that was very much the case. Computer mice had two buttons (three if you were lucky), and scrolling was done by clicking the up or down buttons on the scroll bar. It was laborious and cumbersome, because those buttons were small targets that were easily missed. Early mobile devices weren’t much better, relying on arrow buttons to scroll a bit at a time.

But its wasn’t long before pretty much every mouse had a scroll wheel, every touchpad supported multi-touch panning, and every mobile device sported the flick” gesture. Today, scrolling is a doddle. Unless you’re still using one of the aforementioned devices, in which case verily thou art living in the past, forsooth.

Today, scrolling isn’t the barrier. It’s reading.

Context is king

So does it matter what content is above the fold” on your website? Well, it depends. Let’s take a look at a few different examples.

Facebook
Facebook – once you see past the clutter of links and shortcuts, the content itself is pretty minimal

For better or worse, we’re probably all familiar with how Facebook looks and feels. And you’ll notice that there is no concept of above the fold” here. Content is ordered by relevance and time (and a whole load of other factors Facebook probably won’t tell us about), but there’s an expectation that you will scroll. The bottom of your screen is not a problem.

The key here is that the page is made up of lots of little bite-sized pieces of content, rather than one long piece. The psychology at play here is I’ll just read one more”. It delivers quickly, and urges you to keep going just a little further. And that’s the rest of your evening gone.

The world of ecommerce and promotion is entirely different. What’s shown at the top of the page is carefully crafted to achieve the optimum conversion rate. It’s not that people don’t scroll down the page (because statistics prove they do), but rather than what they see first will form their initial opinion, and that’s what matters.

All the important information is right there, at a glance, so that it’s in your brain almost before you’ve noticed it. There’s also an unmissable call to action” – the buy now’ button. It’s clearly identifiable, so that there’s no confusion about what you should be doing next or how to do it. Below the fold is supportive, but if what’s above the fold doesn’t do a good job it’s unlikely the rest will change your mind.

Amazon
Amazon – everything you need to know about the product at a glance
Medium
Medium – the main content on this leading blog platform isn’t even visible until you scroll down

A good story has a beginning, a middle, and an end. If your content is identifiable as a news article or blog post then visitors will interact with it accordingly. If the title doesn’t grab them, they won’t even start reading. If the introduction bores them, they’ll jump ship.

The important factor here is not so much what’s above the fold but how the story is told. If your content is uninteresting, it doesn’t matter how much of it is above the fold. If it’s really engaging, it doesn’t matter how long you keep scrolling.

So should you care about the fold or not?

Yes. No. It depends.

First, ask yourself what you’re trying to achieve. What’s your end goal? That will inform what content you need to use to get there, which in turn will inform what sort of layout or design is needed to convey that message most effectively.

Here at TBT Marketing, we care about that end goal. Everything, from design to development to hosting to analytics, should all support that end goal. And we’re happy to help you figure out what needs to be above the fold, and why. Get in touch if you want to find out more!

And if you made it all the way to the end, we salute you.