Gregg Blanchard—June 29, 2015
Right now there are dozens, perhaps even hundreds, of you who are somewhere between “let's redesign our site” and “wow, that's a great-looking redesign!”
And, so being, you'll be working with designers.
And, so being, you'll likely see their blood boil and/or steam exit their ears when you mention the “fold” in your meetings.
“The Fold is Dead”
The reason for this is a mantra designers have been repeating for the last few years. That being:
“The fold is dead!”
So what do they mean? Well, let's start with a quote by AOL's Milissa Targuini who was one of the first to write about this in 2007 (back then she called it the fold “myth”):
“Screen performance data and new research indicate that users will scroll to find information and items below the fold. There are established design best practices to ensure that users recognize when a fold exists and that content extends below it.”
Sounds logical, right? So what's the problem? She continues:
“Yet during requirements gathering for design projects designers are inundated with requests to cram as much information above the fold as possible, which complicates the information design.”
Here's how another designer, Jessica Brown, said it 6 years later in 2013:
“For decades, businesses have tried to cram too much information at the top of the page. You know what they say: If everything is important, nothing is important. While it is important to keep your most vital information at the top of your content, stop worrying if your website doesn't say EVERYTHING above the fold.”
Here's another take from another “Fold is Dead” post that illustrates where these designer-client discussions start to get confusing:
“What's the fold? It's the area of a website before you have to scroll. Prime real estate. It was a thing. I have noticed in the last few years that the fold is no longer a thing. Pages are LONG. Seriously, they're so long.”
Did you catch that? He defines the fold as the area before you scroll. But says the reason it is dead is because pages are long. Long pages, however, require scrolling which would, by definition, have an area before you scroll which, by his definition, would mean it has a fold.
See why this debate is often a bit murky?
What They Mean
I think the best answer is what Jessica said above:
“While it is important to keep your most vital information at the top of your content, stop worrying if your website doesn't say EVERYTHING above the fold.”
In other words, be okay with important information not being visible when a page first loads if it's visible when they scroll and, as Melissa suggested, it is designed to get people to do so.
That's an important point. Most everybody is willing to scroll, but visual cues can impact how many do and how far they make it.
In fact, why not set up scroll tracking on your site right now (before the redesign begins) so you can give your designer specific numbers about current scroll habits when you talk?
Long Story Short
Let's summarize this conundrum:
1. An area exists when the page first loads.
2. Some people call this the fold.
3. Not everything has to be placed here because web users are willing to scroll.
4. But what is placed there can impact how many do.
Your prioritization of information is likely more complex than the designer realizes so be clear about the reasons behind those needs and be prepared to have one, vital piece at the top of your priority list.