Skip to main content

Experience Design

The Fold

Let’s get something out of the way right at the start: There is no such thing as the fold on the Web!! Anyone who tells you differently is more wrong than Wrongly Wrongham of 14 Wrongingford Road, Wrongleton; winner of last year’s Mr Wrong Contest.

There's always more underneath...

There’s always more underneath…

OK, silliness out of the way early. It’s time to talk about the problems with the pervasive attitude of The Fold.

  1. Whose fold are we talking about? Yours on that swanky 1920×1200 laptop display? Or mine on my iPad’s 1024×768 screen? How about your iPhone’s display? Where’s the fold on that? Different devices means different interactions with your site, and the concept of the fold is blown away.
  2. Do you really believe all your users have forgotten how to scroll? In this era of mobile browsing, where everything is a swipe away? Trust me, they haven’t.
  3. Is the most important content always going to be at the top? What happened to the concept of the teaser? If we always shove everything as close to the top of the page as we can, inevitably users will get pretty fed up when they realize the rest of the site isn’t up to snuff.
  4. The Web is different from print. Accept this truism and move on. The concept of the fold was born in print. It lives on in print, and will continue to do so for quite some time. It’s right that it remains there, and wrong that is has been brought over to the Web and turned into something as ugly and pervasive as it has.

Before Perficient I worked with someone who firmly believed their “vision” (oh yes, this person used that word) of a website was The One True Way, and 1024×768 was The One True Resolution. It delighted me to present wireframes to this person, only to be told (fingers together in a pyramid as they spoke), that “Martin, we really need to be getting more content above the fold, you know. I really need you to see that.” Suffice it to say, I’d flip to the next slide (the mobile resolution slide) and watch this person’s face fall a little. I can be cruel like that.
But this nameless someone came from a print mindset, and – unfortunately – wasn’t able to break themselves of it, despite all the evidence to the contrary, and the amount of business they were trying to win in the digital space. So web projects would run over as we’d make iteration after iteration, cramming more and more content above an imaginary fold (all completely unbidden by the client, by the way), until this person was satisfied. Then we’d present to the client, the client would hate it (wouldn’t you?), and I’d whip out my original wireframes, untouched by meddling hands, which were inevitably declared winners.
If we ignore the complexities of multiple devices with different resolutions (which comes with its own – blindingly obvious – reason why we need to ignore anyone who uses the phrase, “above the fold”), and simply focus for a moment on a desktop website, ask yourself one key question: Do I want my customers to get everything they asked for right at the beginning of their interaction with your website? Probably not. (Note: I’m not for one second saying hide your content, hee hee hee!) What you want is to build anticipation as your users explore your site. Make interacting with the site as much a part of the experience as the payoff at the end.
Parallax scrolling websites can be great examples of exactly this kind of interactivity. One of the best is Ben the Bodyguard. Go on, take a look. And scroll!

Thoughts on “The Fold”

  1. LOVE THIS! (in fact you beat me to the punch in blogging about it). I’ve had this conversation twice in the past week alone. Let’s scrunch everything up as much as humanly possible to “make the most use” of the space and ensure users don’t have to scroll. What about legibility? What about the warm fuzzies that white space provides?
    It’s okay to scroll. Some users actually LIKE to scroll. This is why the mouse with the scrolling wheel was invented.

  2. I am sure you guys don’t feel the same way about “horizontal scrolling” right? That’s just evil right? So what makes vertical scrolling better and so acceptable?
    I am not saying cramming everything in one page is the better alternative… but surely as designers we need to be thinking of better ways to let the users flow through content without excessive reliance on vertical scrolling right?

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Martin Ridgway

More from this Author

Follow Us