What if I told you… there is no fold outside the realm of print media?
I invite you to take the red pill so to speak and indulge in the possibility that there is no such thing as “above the fold” when it comes to responsive web design.
Of course you are more than welcome to end the story here by taking the blue pill and carry on believing this alleged universal truth without learning how to bend it to your advantage.
Sweet! I knew you’d make the right choice.
Let’s begin our journey by explaining the origins of the phrase “above the fold.” Once upon a time, before the days of digital media, those of us in the communications sector used the phrase to ensure we were clearly explaining and visually supporting the most meaningful content being front and center when pieces were folded, be that newspapers, direct mail, advertisements, etc. The term was eventually used more generally to refer to anything that is prominently displayed or of highest priority. With the emergence of digital media, it was morphed (see what I did there?) into referring to the portions of a webpage that are visible without scrolling.
While this an accurate depiction to help us prioritize our web content, it is somewhat misleading by assuming there is a finite measure we need to design and develop around to accomplish said task. Providing your users with a hierarchy of content will never fall by the wayside and should always be at the forefront of our prioritizing decisions, but supposing our users digest our content in a universal fashion is a serious misstep.
With mobile devices ever on the rise, scrolling to consume content has become an inherent behavior that we need not be afraid of. Having any secondary call to action below the fold will be OK. I promise. Users will scroll. Say it out loud! “My users WILL scroll!” Feels good, doesn’t it?
Think of all the devices floating around out there and where their “fold” lies. It’s impossible to accommodate this imaginary benchmark. Luckily, responsive design (where content is device agnostic), along with hierarchy and quality of content lets us steer clear of making assumptions about our users screen sizes. Don’t get in your own way by delivering content in one form, instead offer the choice for users to digest it how and when they want. Give them the choice.
Then validate the choices you have made. The importance of testing cannot be over-stressed. Test your content—placement, engagement, conversions and interactions—then test it again. Thinking of your content as an ever-evolving entity will allow you to adapt in our shortened attention era to stay relevant and fresh. Tons of great tools are out there to allow you to see how users are interacting with your content so take advantage of being able to craft your messaging with data rather than speculation to take you to the next level.
Do not try and define the fold. Instead only try to realize the truth that there is no fold in digital design. Then you’ll see that focusing on the strength and relevancy of your content will define how your users engage with you.