Above the fold: is it relevant to web design anymore


One of the most common myths that surround the perfect user experience of websites is that users are not willing to scroll. A lot of web designers try to crowd all details “above the fold” to avoid higher bounce rates, thinking that if the users didn’t find what they’re looking for the upper segment of the website, they are more likely to leave without bothering themselves to scroll down. Knowing your bounce rate and how to compare it to other websites is important if you properly want to optimize your page properly and take it to the maximum potential.

The origin of the “Above the Fold” term

The “above the fold” term is a term that was invented by newspapers printers referring to the physical upper half of the first page of the newspaper, which appears to the buyer when displaying them on newspaper racks. Back then, it was important to place a catchy headline and an important piece of content to increase sales profits.

Why it was supposed to be “Above the Fold”

Applying the “the fold” concept while designing websites made sense in the 90’s when technology was not able to provide users the ability to comfortably scroll. That’s why the idea of placing all the important content in the upper part of the website was a must, because the users were not used to scroll, or simply they didn’t know that they had to, which led to them leaving without seeing the content below the fold.

Why “the Fold” concept is not valid anymore

The “Fold” doesn’t exist any more

Setting a figure to determine the physical size of the fold is nearly impossible. A digital products designer looked at the screen sizes of Android smartphones for six months and concluded from his observation that there are approximately 4000 different screen sizes.

Taking the variety of screen sizes of laptops, desktops, and tablets screens into consideration lead us to understand that “the fold” doesn’t exist anymore.

We are familiar with scrolling

Technology has evolved and so have the consumption habit of users. Most users surf the web using their phones and tablets which make scrolling important. Back then, the existence of the scroll bar on the side of the screen was important to help the user figure that there is content further down the page.

Today, scroll bar availability became less important which made Apple rethink the UI for touchscreens when the iPhone was introduced., which ultimately resulted in removing scrollbars from Mac OS X, back in 2011.

Social media sites are full of scrolling

Most of the users spend a huge part of their online time on social media sites, such as Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and eBay. Those websites are based on scrolling, and without doing so the user experience becomes pointless.

Research says so

According to data analysis from Chartbeat, 66% of attention on a normal media page goes to the content located below the fold.

Market leader in customer experience analytics, ClickTale, conducted research that observed around 100,000 page views. The result, a whopping 76% of users preferred the scroll button, while 22% of them scrolled to the bottom of the page bottom regardless of its length.

Researchers at design agency Huge ran a series of tests to measure the scrolling behavior of users regardless of whether they were given a visual clue or not. The usability test revealed that half of smartphone users start scrolling within 10 seconds and 90% within 14 seconds.

All of these figures and statements prove that we should not stick to “the fold” anymore.

Scrolling is a completely natural act and it’s more comforting than clicking through multiple pages. That is why we shouldn’t limit ourselves with the “above the fold”. We still do have to think genuinely about making it look appealing to encourage users to scroll down.

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