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‘Above the Fold’ in Web Design – Dead and Gone?

The “Above the fold” term has successfully migrated to graphic design sphere from the publishing industry (just like many other wonderful things including typography etc.), to be precise this term was applied to the newspaper layout.

You all know that the big stories are placed in the upper part of the newspaper (which was called 'the fold' ), and therefore these big stories were seen instantly when you are about to take a newspaper into your hands. Usually if you are interested in reading the main article you have to unfold the newspaper. So, in general this term can be applied to anything that must be displayed prominently. In web design “fold” or “scroll” is an imaginary line which separates two areas - first is the one that's seen before the user will have to scroll and the other is under the scroll. According to the statistics “above the scroll” zone is one third from the whole page and this area is considered to be the most attractive for the visitors.

People Do Scroll

Since the early 90’s every designer knew that before creating web page he must decide for himsefl whether people actually scroll or not - that is the question. For a long, long period of the design theory’s development the myth has been created and its aim was to convince that scrolling is not what today's web users want to do and that they're too lazy to do that. So as the result a huge part of your website content remained to be unseen. To some extent It was true, for some time. But after a while some web enthusiasts started investigating this issue by providing various polls and gathering interesting statistics data.

One interesting research concerning AOL has showed that the most clickable link on their website was placed in the footer (!) and it was pointing to a popular gossips website. It sure looks like scrolling is not that bad, and users don't want to spare their fingertips and they mercilessly use the scrolling wheel to find interesting content. There are many other wonderful examples but the point is that the “non-scrolling” myth has influenced the web design theory development in a negative way reducing the importance of creating intuitive designs. Therefore typical placement of vitally important design elements in the top of the website layout has created a trend to think of any website layout from the “non-scrolling” point of view, without giving any chance to popularizing other approaches in creating designs.

Mobile Web is Killing “the fold”

The “fold” concept existence in the web design theory was greatly undermined with the increasing popularity of mobile devices (smartphones, tablets etc). And the reason was really simple – while few years ago the fold could be easily measured and physically predicted, today's simple question of “Where is the fold?” would frustrate you for sure because you cannot find it anymore. Yes, it is all about the screen resolution and I think that you’ll agree that 2010 was a year of the mobile web revolution because mobile devices have changed the web forever. Now we’ve entered the era of the mobile web where screen resolutions vary so greatly that you might get lost in their diversity. Moreover, you shouldn’t forget about wide screens of LCD TV’s and other related devices that can be easily used as monitors.

So since the aspect ratio and resolutions are so various, web designers must ponder on how to find the new ways for emhpasizing the areas where the most important content should be placed. Of course for some time the old school designers will follow the old rules. But on the other hand, according to the tons of published researches on various blogs and social media, the web community has finally admitted that there is a life “below the fold”. It's really nice to know that.

The New Dawn

We know that it is quite complicated to forget things which were so important for us all during such a long period of your professional activity, but if you don’t want to be the last of the Mohicans just don’t be afraid to acknowledge something new. Users love simplicity and the free space so why don’t you give them what they want? As for the advertising issue (advertisers want to place their ads above the fold, as high as possible) you can’t do anything about it for now, but never forget about wise contextual ads strategy - cheap banners in the footer sometimes get the most clicks. We would love to know your thoughts concerning this topic, it still remains really controversial. Maybe it is too early to proclaim the death of the “fold”?

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Edward Korcheg

Edward is a professional technical writer who is also passionate about making stunning designs in Photoshop. You can find many useful tutorials in his collection of articles at MonsterMost.

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22 responses to “‘Above the Fold’ in Web Design – Dead and Gone?”

  1. Homepage says:

    … [Trackback]

    […] There you will find 14740 more Infos: […]

  2. smartsearchmedia says:

    People do scroll. Also people sometimes immediately hit the back button because they don’t see what they want to see on the initial viewport. The fold isn’t definable as a single number but the concept still exists, particularly on landing pages.

  3. Tom, NewEvolution says:

    This sounds about right. I only hear advertisers use “the fold” anymore.

  4. Joe Karuri says:

    I think mobile web is improving greatly. I’m for the idea of waiting the mobile web catch up (which it will). Soon we’ll be able to have a mobile browsing experience as good as that of a PC.

  5. Jon Donley says:

    Oops . . . make that “documentation.” Or not.

  6. Jon Donley says:

    I’m sorry, but this post lacks credibility. Given your controversial assertions – which fly in the face of much research since the mid-90s on user habits online, eye-tracking, percentage of users who continue on a “more” link and page-scrolling – you should provide your cocumentation.

    While the print publishing industry is a hoary old dinosaur, the idea that it the “above the fold” metaphor was created in an attempt to recreate print layout is silly.

    I think you’ve missed the point and implications of the newspaper term “above the fold.” It’s a term related to newspaper SALES, rather than how one has to unfold a page to read the whole story. Historically the bulk of papers were not home delivery, but single-copy sales at newsstands and newspaper racks. The portion of the page above the fold was (and still is), the billboard that persuades a prospective reader to buy the paper. If this “marketing space” does not compel action in a brief glance, the customer moves on.

    As the founder and editor of three high-market penetration and highly trafficked sites, I have first-hand knowledge of the effect of content placement on the page. Generally speaking, you have one glance – the portion of the page that comes up on your screen – to persuade the reader to continue. If you don’t do that, there goes your bounce rate.

    • Gerard says:

      I partially agree with Jon, only the findings he portrays as ‘absolutes’ (connected to his expertise based on a couple of websites) are also quite undefined marketing components. The article refers to the history perspective in times that a monitor resolution was quite small.
      Hence the fold issue, that these day’s count still for some 73% of visitors (monitor resolutions used on the net is 800×600 34% and 24% for 1024×768). So let’s just get over it Jon, because there’s more to life and marketing then the fold…

  7. Psybusiness2 says:

    it’s too early for now

  8. Ernie says:

    This article was very interesting. It made me think about several websites I manage. One comment mentioned larger screens. Yes, everyone has larger screens, but, they are mostly WIDER not TALLER. Therefore, most websites still need to be scrolled. I ran my own poll of sorts and the results were: EVERYONE scrolls. There is no such thing as “the fold”!!! But, the people I asked all said they scroll ONLY if they want to read more about what they see on the opening page. So, this indicates there is a similar section on webpages like “the fold”. Perhaps we can call it “The Website Horizon”? LOL

  9. bfkkb says:

    I have to disagree. On the Web, it’s called above the scroll. The fact that you continue to use print terms bothers me. It is this unrelenting trend toward making Web sites to look like print that is causing the confusion. CSS developed from a need for graphic/print designers to control the look and feel of HTML just as they do in InDesign or Quark layouts.

    The basic rule is to design for your medium. Computer screens are horizontal. Until they are vertical, these “newsletter/print layouts” will remain difficult to read. Most people read across, not up and down. This goes for a page as well as a computer screen.

  10. Allan jose says:

    web designing has move forward a long way to accommodate the needs of the time…mobile web has helped change the old ways of web designing.its more interesting and user friendly(more than printer friendly)

  11. Bill Newman says:

    wheel killed fold

  12. Shawn says:

    Nick, bravo my friend! I couldn’t agree more. I can’t tell you how many times a traditional print designer has provided to me (I’m a website designer, by the way) a “web design” that fits neatly on a horizontal piece of letter-sized paper with their carefully word-counted “lorem ipsum”. When I ask, “what if there are more paragraphs than that?”, they always get that deer in the headlights look. While I don’t agree that “above the fold” is dead, it is dying. There are way too many screen sizes to say there is a definitive fold anymore. I think the fold is relevant if you’re considering “mainstream laptop users” or “corporate desktop users” as the primary audience for your website. But, if your audience could be anyone, then their screen can also be anything from a square-like Blackberry screen to a vertical iPad. That being said, the “fold” is now completely fluid. Change your thinking web designers, if you want to stay in the game.

  13. ms4130 says:

    Allow me a simple rebuttal. I think in general we scroll, no problem. I think exceptions are important. I recommend that sites designed for kids that you should test your age groups and consider above the fold for them. You could reply that kids are well equipped to scroll. But without you testing your target age group, you don’t really know.

  14. PRO-Webs, Inc says:

    Fold or not there is still page real estate which is more valuable than others and you still must use design in flow to get people to scroll in to other areas.

  15. Ingbert says:

    Designing for the “fold” is contraproductive and not very user friendly. I have never understood why onlineshops use paging when there are relevant articles in a suitable category. I like shops when there are 200+ products in one category combined with a good filter system to narrow down the results. But for a quick overview it is the best to presentate all relevant products on one page. For a quick search, I am using the builtin Browser function, regardless the information is above or beneath “the fold”

  16. Nick says:

    I for one have got rather fed up with the traditional graphic design agencies trying to squeeze all the website content in to one screen and they seem stuck in the ‘print brochure’ mindset. They usually work on massive MAC screens and think they have done a nice job if it looks great printed on a sheet of A3 paper at 300dpi – try explaining to an old school graphics designer what 72dpi is and they just start to glaze over. As users we are all very happy to scroll down the page if the info is relevant. And another thing – why do they insist that everything has to be in Helvetica, Universe or DIN and beautifully anti-aliased.

  17. Bob Knows Phones says:

    I would much rather scroll down to find content rather than go back to Google (or wherever) and move my hand from the mouse to the keyboard in order to refine my search because I didn’t find what I was looking for. Above or below the fold!

  18. Dan says:

    Sorry I am a bit dense, but was the author arguing that with such big monitors and high resolutions, there IS NO FOLD or that with such small screens on mobile devices users are ACCUSTOMED TO SCROLLING.

  19. Attila says:

    I think people scroll only if there is something that get their attention or if they know that down there is something worth scrolling for. So above the fold or rather the top of page is more prominent than the footer.

  20. Gerard says:

    Very nice article people! Also the added related posts:very useful and smart 🙂

  21. pxlated says:

    There hasn’t been a fold since 640×480 & 1024×768 monitors were the norm. With bigger monitors of varying sizes one can’t tell what the user is viewing – are they browsing full screen or partial.
    So, it IS dead and has been for quite some time. It’s just taking old print oriented designers/editors awhile to get with the program.
    I laugh every time I see a site use the phrase “below the fold” – Wrong, it’s not out of my sight. I have a big monitor.

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