Does ‘Above the Fold’ Still Matter in Web Design?

Long ago, when the internet was young, and the first websites were crawling up out of the primordial HTML, users didn’t really know how to scroll. It wasn’t intuitive. There were no scroll wheels. You had to move your cursor over to the scroll bar, then click and drag like a Neanderthal.

Naturally, that meant that the top part of the site – the screen limit users can see without scrolling, which is about 560 pixels high on a 1024-by-768 screen – was prime real estate. It became a rule to include all your important messages and calls to action above that line.

Folks in web design and development started calling this space “above the fold” – a term that originated from the newspaper industry. The newspaper industry! I could stop right here, and that would be enough to explain why this rule no longer applies.

Nowadays, everyone scrolls. You practically can’t buy a mouse without a scrolling function, and people are used to swiping all day on their smart phones. People tend to want to explore and learn a little before they make a commitment, which means “above the fold” may be the last place you’ll want to stick your call to action.

But it is still the first thing you see when you arrive at a site. So what should go there?

What to put above the fold

  • Branding. First impressions matter, so you need to establish your identity. Use imagery, and maybe a catchy headline, to tell people what kind of organization you are.
  • Basic information. It should be clear at first glance what industry you’re in, and visitors should have a general idea of what you do. If your logo, tagline or other branding doesn’t make it clear, try writing a mission or identity statement.
  • Navigation. Whether it’s a traditional nav or an expanding “hamburger” nav, users will look for it at the top of the page.

What to put below the fold

  • Internal page promotions. This is a great place to promote other internal pages, like specific products, deals or events.
  • In-depth information. You gave the basics above the fold; now you can go into more detail about services you offer. You can even guide users through a narrative, such as “who we are … how we can help you … why you should choose us.”
  • Calls to action. Here’s where you ask for that conversion. Whether it’s one floating button or several buttons embedded in their specific promos, calls to action generally perform better below the fold.

No two organizations are the same; your websites shouldn’t be, either

While the rules above generally apply, you might need something different – like a floating “buy” or “donate” button that follows users wherever they are on the site. Tell us about yourself, and we can design a site that meets your unique needs.

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