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The fold is dead: long live scrolling!

Feb 2

The fold is dead: long live scrolling!

The term “fold” comes from printed newspapers, and “above the fold” refers to the area you can see at a glance without opening the paper. It has always been considered prime real estate, and the first, best opportunity to capture the reader’s attention and get them to buy the paper.

That terminology ended up moving into the online world to refer to the part of a site you can see without scrolling. Web design wisdom used to be about keeping all the important info near the top of the page, so people don’t miss anything if they don’t scroll.

But that’s old news. These days, every user is on a different size screen, so the “fold” is different for everyone, and it has gotten us used to scrolling. Responsive web design has changed the way we view stuff online, and our expectations for the fold have changed right along with it. We know to scroll until we reach the end – or at least find what we’re looking for.

A better approach is to prioritize your content. Yes, put the most important stuff at the top. But there’s no need to cram it all in there. Determine the order in which it makes sense for the reader to consume it. And make sure it’s quality content that’s presented in an interesting, readable, engaging way. Tell a story that will entice them to move organically down the page. Create multiple entry points for your products. Capture their interest enough to make them want to go further, and they will. Leave room for white space. Let the content breathe for readability and a better user experience. Take the space you need to say what you need to say.

Of course, the one thing that should be on that initial “above the fold” screen is something that will let users know there’s more below and motivate them to scroll. Something as simple as an arrow is enough. That initial screen is about enticing them to read more, but it doesn’t have to give away the farm.

When you’re designing a site, trust your users to know how to use it. Throw away your old ideas – after all, the internet isn’t made of paper. In fact, there is no fold.