Let’s talk about “the fold”

“The fold” is a print term. It has no place in digital media. The end.

Okay, okay…

When we talk about the fold we’re talking about content that’s visible on the user’s screen, without scrolling, right when a webpage loads.

Of course, a big problem when talking about the fold is that there are a ton of different devices and different screen sizes out there, so not all users are seeing the same amount of content “above the fold.”

Even acknowledging that there is a fold is wrong, because it implies that users consume digital media the same way they consumer print media, and this is not the case. The fold, even if we’re pretending there is one, is irrelevant, because users scroll without even realizing they’re doing it. I’m sure we’ve all seen the same articles about CTAs performing better lower on the page than higher up. The perceived value of putting things high up on a page has been disproved many times by people much smarter than I am.

Lowest common denominator

But people ask me anyway, “so what’s the lowest common denominator we need to shoot for in order get a piece of content above the fold?” There is no good answer to this question. I can tell you that, for desktop and laptop computers, 768 pixels of height is the lowest common denominator. However, that does not mean that 768 pixels worth of content is visible on screen without scrolling. The browser interface (address bar, tool bars, etc) takes up at least 100 pixels on most browsers. However, some users install extra tool bars in their browsers, which eat up even more of that space. Some users have their browser floating rather than maximized. There is absolutely no way to say that X pixels worth of content will be visible for all users. We can use 650 as a general rule of thumb, and we can arrange our designs to keep important things above 650 pixels, and those things will still get cut off for some users. THERE IS NO “ABOVE THE FOLD.” Newspapers fold. Websites scroll.

And we haven’t even begun to talk about mobile yet.

What’s the solution?

Abandon the fold.

Accept that users scroll.

Accept that digital media displays differently across devices and screen sizes.

Educate clients (whenever possible) that the fold is an outdated term that’s not part of our industry. Educate clients that users scroll. Educate clients that simply placing content higher up on a page doesn’t mean users will read it, and that in fact the opposite is often true.

Here’s a link that’s great ammunition when discussing the fold and scrolling: Life Below 600

One Response to “Let’s talk about “the fold””

  1. […] is a term from the print world, and it’s one which I’ve been educating people for years has no place in the discussion of digital media. Using “above the fold” when discussing […]

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