Most people have heard the phrase, but where did it come from? What does it really mean? And is it really still applicable? Well…
Remember those days when most of the news was delivered on paper?
That’s when the term “above the fold” was coined. Since papers were sold and delivered literally folded in half, it became an industry standard to put the most intriguing news, photos, and headlines on the top half of the paper, enticing readers to buy and continue reading.
So how does that apply to the web?
Well, in the early 90’s the internet was becoming a public commodity, yet no one really knew how to effectively navigate the web. Sites were crude, there were very few standards, and mice didn’t come with standard scroll wheels. The phrase “above the fold” was adopted by web designers to refer to the portion of a website that could be seen before a user had to scroll.
Since users’ browser naivety was great, and patience small, sites began designing around the concept that the most important information needed to be presented at the top of the site. Based on the most common browser sizes at the time, sites began to place an inordinate amount of value on the content considered “above the fold”. The concept eventually devolved into smashing as much content as possible into x number of pixel height.
Are you saying there is no value to the notion of “above the fold”?
Not exactly. The idea wasn’t necessarily a bad one (though, even since its conception- it has been a subject of heated debate), but technology has grown and users have become more tech-savvy. Your web visitors are fully capable of scrolling; they know how to navigate using a site’s navigation bar, and even know how to use their browser buttons to go back, forward, and open new tabs.
Beyond the users are the monitors- where exactly is the fold? In the mid-2000’s, the VAST majority of monitors were displaying at a resolution of 1024x768 pixels. That meant “the fold” was generally around 600 pixels. But take a moment and think about web viewing today. We have smart phones, tablets, monitors that can be flipped vertically, and a huge number of individuals using LCD TV’s for web browsing. A website’s “fold” no longer exists since there is no longer a standard. Most monitors today average 10+ resolution settings (and each produces a very different “fold” value), plus many users never full-screen their web browsers.
Unless monitor sizes re-standardize and web user knowledge regresses,
“Above the Fold” is dead.
For an awesome example of this and some more info, check out: http://iampaddy.com/lifebelow600/