May 23, 2014 | by Liam

Web Design FAQ – Can All of the Content be Displayed On-Screen?

The next article in our web design FAQ’s series is one that we have noticed creep in more and more recently; I like the design but can we have all of the content displayed on-screen or ‘above the fold’.

This phrase ‘above the fold’ originated within the print industry, specifically within newspapers, where the positioning of a headline story would be ‘above the fold’ to grab attention and increase readership. In the early conception of the web, this mantra reigned supreme, mostly because the internet wasn’t a familiar tool and users weren’t confident in using their browser, nor did they fully understand how it worked. Screen size also wasn’t an issue; the standard screen size was 800×600 pixels meaning that designers had set dimensions to work with.

Nowadays, designers have no such set parameters…

That’s right, the fold has gone. But it’s ok; no need for mass panic, no one has been hurt in the removal of the fold! Your website visitors aren’t going to run for the hills either because they have to scroll, in fact, modern web users now EXPECT to scroll. The recent boom of bigger monitors and mobile devices mean that scrolling is almost a requirement.

Don’t believe us?

There have been many studies carried out to find out just how valid the ‘above the fold’ hypothesis is and they have all shown that modern web users do indeed scroll and interact with elements ‘below the fold’.

Chartbeat, a data analytics provider, analysed data from 2 billion visits and found that “66% of attention on a normal media page is spent below the fold.” – What You Think You Know About the Web Is Wrong

Usability expert Jakob Nielsen’s eye-tracking studies show that while attention is focused above the fold, people do scroll down, especially if the page is designed to encourage scrolling. – Scrolling and Attention

Upon reviewing the analytics data of TMZ.com, Milissa Tarquini found that the most clicked link on the homepage is at the very bottom. She also points out that polls and galleries at the bottom of AOL’s Money & Finance homepage get a lot of clicks in spite of their position. – Blasting the Myth of the Fold

However that’s not to say that the ‘above the fold’ content shouldn’t be considered fully. Most of the evidence suggests that if the site has been designed to encourage scrolling then users will interact fully with your website. This shows that things ‘above the fold’ are still important.

But where is the fold?

Again, in the early days of the internet, most monitors were 15” with a resolution of 800×600 pixels therefore designers knew the exact dimensions they had to work with and typically designed for this. Today, high resolution monitors are the norm and their dimensions and resolutions differ greatly. Then you have various sizes of laptops, tablets and mobile phones. It makes answering the question ‘where is the fold?’ impossible. The fold was always considered the bottom of your browser however, if you open a web page on your 24” monitor where a great deal of the website content will be visible and then compare it to your mobile or laptop, you’ll see a huge difference.

The fold is dead, so why cling to the idea of asking your web designer to design everything for 800×600 pixels? Not only are you limiting your design, you are doing a disservice to the visitors of your website because you believe that users don’t scroll. Users do scroll. And in fact, most would likely prefer to scroll and continue reading or viewing your content over being forced to view shortened content spread across multiple pages. So forget the fold – it doesn’t exist. Have a compelling page layout and if it runs long, it’s OK, people will scroll – provided what you put lower on the page is worth scrolling for.

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