Why "Above the Fold" Shouldn't Guide Your Website Design

By Kathryn Schroeder | August 2015

The term "above the fold" originated in the newspaper business. It referred to the prime, top-of-the-front-page real estate where the most eye-catching headlines and photos were placed. When the papers were folded and stacked at newsstands, the above the fold content had to peak the reader’s interest enough so that they would buy the paper. The term made the jump to web design, but this concept needs to be revisited. 


"Above the fold," is not what should guide your website redesign. Nor should other idioms like,

“If it’s important, it should be immediately visible.” 


“People don’t scroll.” 

Don't fall for it. Hard rules like these are never good. They fail to take into account the overall user experience of your site and changes in technology. When followed, these rules tend to create sites like this:


Yikes. "Above the fold" may have been a good guiding principle when sites were only viewed on 800px by 600px monitors, but today it's an outdated concept. 

If your users are engaged, they will scroll (and click!)

First off, the readability, storytelling and overall design aesthetic should not be compromised by squishing a ton of content into the first 800 pixels of your site. Use the length of your page to tell your story. Introduce your brand, your mission, services and products first. A hard sell right out of the gate is rarely effective. Your users need to be engaged and interested - whether or not your users click/purchase/donate is not dependent on how quickly you ask them, but rather if you’ve motivated them to do so.

There’s no “above the fold” measurement

Secondly, users view your content on so many different devices now, it’s impossible to gauge what will fit on their screen. Is your user visiting your site from a smartphone, laptop or tablet? Is their mobile device held landscape or tablet? Do they have another app open, forcing your site into a long, narrow browser? It’s no longer effective to design for only a full-screen, desktop view.

Your design and content should be planned with multiple screen sizes in mind. This requires well-edited, interesting content to keep users engaged, no matter where they are on your site. Rather than filling every last bit of space on the top half of your site pages, prioritize your content and think about your audience goals. How do they navigate your site? What type of content is important and when do they need to see it? 

An engaging site requires a clear understanding of your audience and their needs. Content maps, user personas and analytics reviews are all great tools to help prioritize and refine your messaging and overall site design. This is the sell line for ArcStone... we can help you! Contact ArcStone today!

Topics: Web Design, Design Basics: Learning Center

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