Blog 01/03/2016

Web Designer Fold Myths

A Web Designer's view on scrolling and clicking

It is still a question which often comes up by clients to web designers in initial design meetings. Does all the most important information have to be above the fold? Will users scroll on a website? How far will they scroll? Will they know to scroll? There is no fold this vanished when responsive design became commonplace. It didnt just vanish because the website is responsive, it became defunct as we started to use websites differently.

Responsive web design changed the fold

Websites have evolved so much in the past 8 years. Previously web designers were mainly designing for desktop computers, we were not really considering devices. The fold was roughly 650 pixels form the top of the page. But suddenly, for most web designers, we were designing for multiple screen sizes. Ownership of tablets almost doubled from 2013 – 2016 which gives an idea of how peoples interactions with computers and devices changed. Tablet ownership stats. Responsive web design changed the way the fold was used. You only have to watch people using their mobiles and tablets on the tube to test the theory that people know to scroll, (unless the page has been designed badly.)

Need more evidence….

Joe Leech’s research back in 2009 diminished that everything should be above the fold. This quote sums up quite nicely the research “Over the last 6 years we’ve watched over 800 user testing sessions between us and on only 3 occasions have we seen the page fold as a barrier to users getting to the content they want.”

Most importantly, the question for web designers should be what should go above the fold?

Web designers should really be asking what should go above the fold? The top of the page is important, it is usually the first part of the website the user comes to. It gives the first impression of the site and can make or break a user leaving the website.

Luke Wroblewski wrote an article on his website, which I think is one of the most crucial points to consider when designing a homepage. “If you’re assuming the best way to drive conversion is to put big “call to action” buttons above the fold, you’re missing out on the more important point of placing actions where people become convinced to act (this is key).”

Of course this varies from site to site. If you have a site with a similar functionality to Airbnb where the principle functionality is to search, this should be easily accessible and the first thing you come to on the page. However, if you have a portfolio based site, where you are telling the user about your company, what you do and why you do it, consider that the user may need some convincing, and they have probably come to your site to be convinced. This extract from Josh Porter’s blog should sway decisions about how content on the website homepage.

“So here is the real difference: scrolling is a continuation; clicking is a decision. Scrolling is simply continuing to do what you’re currently doing, which is typically reading. Clicking, however, is asking the user to consider something new…is this new thing the same as what I’m already doing, or something new? Obviously this is a small interaction…but think about it in scale. Hundreds or thousands of decisions taken together add up to real friction. “

Web designers know there isn’t a fold, this has been throughly researched. And web designers know first impressions are important so the top of the page is important. With these things in mind when we are planning content the questions we should be asking is:

Are you asking your user to make a real decision and go elsewhere in the site? Or are you asking them to simply scroll to see what’s next? With in mind that scrolling is easier than clicking.