Estimated Reading Time 4 minutes
1 definition but multiple reasons to be aware of it.
The history of ‘the fold’:
The terminology for ‘above the fold’ came from printing newspapers and refers to the upper half of the front cover. As newspapers were traditionally displayed folded to the customer, it was vital you had a strong news title above the fold to capture the buyer. This then transfers to advertising as the space above the fold is known to show more prominently and viable when on the stands.
The fold as above, is now also referred to as the visible space before scrolling on a web-page. The fold of websites varies depending on screen size and device, the terminology is still the same, however the decision of where to place is subjective to what you are trying to achieve.
Why is the fold important?
The content layout and placement of a website is important as it’s what the user sees when they first load the page. Being above the fold sets the scene for future content and gives a preview of what the site is about. So, really you want to ensure any content you want seen is above the fold, that’s assuming the user will not scroll, some will some won’t. Unless you are an instant hit of content appealing enough people won’t scroll.
Depending on who you are talking to will determine the importance of the fold and whether you should be above or below it. Typically, the majority of people you do speak to will say best practise is to be above the fold. For example in web design: ‘ensure your CTA is above the fold’ or in Search Marketing ‘we want to get your advert above the fold for maximum exposure’. But is there a time when actually below the fold is better strategically? When is it right or wrong to be above or below the fold? Like I said, it’s subjective. It’s down to your strategy and what you are trying to achieve.
What does best practice say?
The best practice states that your call to action must be above the fold because visitors do not typically scroll beyond the fold.
Should we listen to best practice? What is best practice? Who are creating these best practices? Who actually listens to them?
One of my favourite definitions of the term is from Wikipedia (sorry, not sorry), where god knows who, has discussed ‘A best practice is a method or technique that have been generally accepted as superior to any alternatives’. Meaning the term best practice has been created from people doing the same thing, achieving good results and now this is the way we should do things. Ok….if it’s not broke don’t fix it, but I think like the digital age has progressed, so should the term. Best practice really should be just a fancy way of saying common sense.
So ‘Best Practice’ has spoken, but does that mean we need to follow it? What if the visitor has never heard of your brand, or never visited your site before, what if there is no explanation above the fold, what if it’s a piece of content? Although placing a CTA above the fold is common practice, it may be a little much for a user who has just landed on your site.
Let’s take a step back.
Let’s go into a more detailed approach and look at things from a scenario point of view:
‘Users don’t scroll’
Users will scroll, if you give them a reason too. Make an impact with the visible content and the user will scroll. This means the content that you put above the fold needs to be relevant and to the point to show you have more to offer.
Looking at the example below, firstly we have The National Trust, full of beautiful imagery to inspire you as soon as you land. What they then have is a panel showing the user that they can scroll and there is more content without having to compromise their stunning images.
Now look at House of Fraser, this is what I see when visiting their website:
I can see the navigation clearly, there are three call to actions central on the page taking me to Womens, Mens or Kids. Would you have scrolled at this point or gone on your shopping spree? To me there is no need to scroll, I have what I need, is there even anything to scroll for? Click and I’m off shopping!
Wrong, House of Fraser wanted me to scroll. They have a ‘The Blackout’ which promises offers and deals in less than 24hrs, shame I missed the memo as it was hidden below the fold with no indication that it’s there.
‘Your CTA should always be above the fold’
Why are people arriving at your website? Are you selling a product? A service? Or read a piece of content? Are you being too pushing by putting the call to action above the fold? Potentially yes. You need to think about the circumstance.
Let’s take a look at Skype. A well known brand and people are familiar with the concept of the product. As soon as you land there are 3 call to actions, to download, chat or buy. But, what if you didn’t know Skype and you wanted to learn more?
Now, Search Engine Land, a content based hub with blog articles being posted daily. Say I’ve clicked through via a tweet, before the article starts I’m being asked to subscribe and share via social platforms. Hang on…I haven’t even read the article yet.
When I’ve finished reading, I’m at the bottom of the post and there is no subscribe field…would this not be the perfect place for one?
It’s actually quite overwhelming how many CTA’s there are, especially once I keep scrolling…
What do you think?
Moving on to search, below the fold vs above the fold:
Data from Ignite Visibility, graph by Digital Clarity.
Ok, this one is a little bit of a no brainer and the data speaks for itself. Being below the fold on Google sucks. You get a few clicks but no where near the volume you would if you were above the fold. Although, what’s even harder in terms of Google as a search engine, is depending on what device you’r using can dramatically change your position to the fold. Like we can see above, on a mobile you have very few above the fold options compared to desktop.
The fold is a complicated topic, especially in recent years, with the fold being unique depending on screen size. Don’t make assumptions on your users behaviours, people will scroll as long as they know there is something to scroll for. Whether to be under or above the fold is dependent on where your proposition fits and how strong it is.
Here are some closing tips for the next time you need to consider ‘the fold’:
- Avoid a false bottom
- The above the fold content sets the stage for future content
- People can and do scroll
- Use Google Analytics to discover what screens people are using
- Put a clear USP above the fold