“Above the Fold”

A lot of clients ask us about how much content should be on the home page of a website, and specifically whether everything should fit “above the fold.”

What is “the fold” and (why) should important content come above it?

The concept of “above the fold” goes back to print newspapers, where the day’s major news is splashed on the front page in large type, with the most important items placed above the fold. In the case of a newspaper, the term is literal. There is a fold, and there’s also a very specific reason why important news is presented in an eye-catching manner, above it: to sell newspapers. Or even more specifically, to sell newspapers in a newspaper vending machine, where the only things a person can see before dropping their quarter into the slot are what’s above the fold on the front page.

A website is not a newspaper.

At some point in the rapid and recent evolution of web design, the concept of “above the fold” was brought into this new medium. In some ways, it makes sense: when a user comes to your website, the first thing they see is whatever you manage to fit within one window’s worth of the home page. You want to get the visitor’s attention with that content, to get them to stay and explore deeper.

But a website is not a newspaper. It doesn’t cost anything (beyond the slight movement of a finger) to scroll past the “fold” on the home page. And there’s even one more important technical consideration…

The fold is a myth.

There is no such thing as a “fold” on a web page. There’s not even an easy way to define what’s referred to above as “one window’s worth” of a web page. Every screen is different, and every browser window is different. There’s no way for you to know for sure how much of your home page a user is going to be able to see at one time.

Still, there is value to the concept of the fold. It is important to get the user’s attention, to encourage them to stay and explore further. But any concerns about the fold should be taken with a grain of salt. Users will scroll. Trust us. It’s pretty unlikely that yours is the first website they’ve ever visited. They know there’s more.

And although every window is different, you can make reasonable guesses about common window sizes. Using Responsive Web Design helps with this even more, because you can adjust what fits on one window based on the user’s screen size.

So what should we do?

The biggest lesson to take away from any discussion of the fold is that it is important to be deliberate about what you put on the home page. You don’t need to put everything on the home page. Make it engaging. Make it digestible. Make it interesting enough to get users to want to explore further. Thinking about the fold can help with this, but the real goal is to keep the home page to a manageable length. We usually recommend somewhere between 1 ½ and 2 ½ “windows’ worth” of content.

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