Whatever you do… don’t mention the fold!

Whatever you do… don’t mention the fold!

May 12 2015 | by STEPH BELLIS

In the last few years any web designers or developers who mentioned ‘the fold’ were swiftly banished to the back of the room with their reputation in pieces. We were all encouraged to get over the fold due to the increasing variety in devices and screen sizes that were starting to come onto the market. After all people just love to scroll… right?

Wrong! I’m prepared to put my reputation on the line to say that I BELIEVE IN THE FOLD! That’s right, I said it. I’m a believer, and I’m going to tell you why.

It’s true that these days the technology market is flooded with devices all of which are a different size and shape. And what’s more, they change all the time! For years mobile phones were getting smaller and smaller and then BAM... The iPhone 6 comes along and everyone wants something bigger!

So what's the fold got to do with this?

We were told for years that the fold no longer exists because you will never know where it lies or how much of the page your visitors are actually seeing. Well in a sense, that is true, the fold isn’t one fixed place, but the use of eye tracking technology can prove that what is at the top of your page matters the most. In a recent study by the Nielsen Norman Group which analysed 57,453 fixations (instances when a user looks at something on a web page for less than ½ a second) showed that web users spend 80% of their time looking at information above the page fold and only 20% of time below it. 

The fact is, website visitors today are savvy and have a limited attention span - An earlier study by Nielson Norman Group found that web users only read around 20% of content on a page - we all love to scan read. Now I’m not suggesting that we should cram all of your best content into the top of the page. Some designers try to do this by using lengthy carousels but ‘banner blindness’ can affect how much of the carousel is consumed as explained more thoroughly by Econsultancy here.

The answer, I believe, is to encourage users to navigate your site by combining a great design with intuitive navigation and intelligent calls to action. That way you get the wow factor of having a nice looking page, but don’t lose the attention of your visitors. A great example of a brand doing this well is Starbucks.

Starbucks UK homepage

The nice imagery combined with the clean design means that the website represents the brand well as a mid-high range coffeehouse company. The calls to action are clear whilst the use of an intuitive mega-menu means that visitors can easily access any area of the website within just a couple of clicks. The use of compelling headlines in each of the page blocks are used to entice a visitor to scroll beyond the fold, however, if they choose not to the content is not missed because it will always be found in the menu. The website is fully responsive, meaning that users will see the same cleverly structured content on whatever device they choose to browse it on.

So in conclusion, don’t ignore the fold. Make sure that the top of your page makes the most of the high level of eye traffic it receives. Use responsive and intuitive web design to  encourage and entice visitors to explore your content be it through scrolling, clicks on calls to action or a via a menu.

Steph Bellis

Whatever you do… don’t mention the fold!