As the title of this article suggests, I’ve got strong feelings towards what is commonly referred to as ‘the fold’. For those who don’t know what I’m yapping about, the fold is basically the portion of your screen that’s visible before scrolling. Pretty harmless, so why does it irritate me so much?
Where as most people have come to understand that the fold has no relevance to good design, there are still a handful of misinformed people out there that compromise good design because of this invisible obstacle.
Websites and email marketing (e-flyers/newsletters) are my primary examples. Sometimes, as designers we’re asked to fit a lot of information ‘above the fold’ because the client is scared that the content will be missed if people have to scroll to see it.
Scrolling is that intuitive that people no longer need to be told to scroll down to see more, it’s become a reflex to looking a a website. Trying to squeeze everything in the top portion of a website causes the design loses its pace and it all becomes too top heavy and unbalanced.
My argument against the fold is pretty simple. There are so many different screen sizes, and within that, so many different browser window sizes, that it’s impossible to accurately identify where the fold is. You can see it on your screen right now, but that could be in a totally different position for the person sat next to you.
Fully responsive websites are now as standard, so when you adjust the height of width of your browser window, the content moves with it so none of the content is lost. This means the fold is always on the move, making it impossible to identify where the fold sits for the average visitor.
This should be a standard way of working, making the solution as simple as the argument. There’s a certain level of common sense that needs to be applied, but the main thing is to carefully consider the content and understand what the most important assets of the design are, whether that be a call to action, search function, or an important message.
My golden rule us to never start designing a website until I’ve identified what’s important to making the site fulfil it’s purpose so that I can formulate a hierarchy for the content.
Take a homepage for example — start by creating a list of content, then re-order this list from most important to least important content. This should then act as a map to lead you towards a successful design. Create yourself a wireframe template and start designing your homepage one section at a time, top to bottom, following the list you curated.
Figuring out what is important content and what isn’t comes down to experience and understanding your client’s goals/needs. Take a product page on an ecommerce site for example… The ‘add to cart’ button is probably more important than 80% of the page content, so treat it with that level of importance, don’t shunt it below content that’s less influential to making a sale.
By following this process you avoid being shackled by the fold and you’re able to find a solution that works for everybody. The end result is a beautiful, carefully considered design that doesn’t just look good, but also fulfils its purpose.