The Big Myth About Content Above the Fold on Your Website

I can’t tell you how often I have clients tell me that they want to have a certain piece of content “above the fold” on their website.

They’re afraid that if important content isn’t showing on the screen when the web page loads, the visitor will apparently never see it. So, they insist on making silly compromises to the design of their site because they either heard or read somewhere that if a visitor needs to scroll, they’ll never see this important content.

I’m sorry, but that’s just dumb. You know why I think it’s dumb? Because…

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…everyone isn’t a moron. People know how to scroll when they surf the web. Like you just did.

Get. Over. It.

Above the fold, as it applies to Web design, is the portion of a Web page that is visible in a browser window when the page first loads.

This Isn’t the Newspaper Business

The term originated in the newspaper business, when you wanted important info on the top half of the front page, above the fold, so people would pick up your newspaper at the news stand instead of the competitor’s.

That obviously has no bearing in the internet world, as you’re generally not comparing two websites right next to each other.

But, back when the web was new, and scrolling down a page was fancy, newfangled technology, the term got co-opted by website designers.

And unfortunately, it’s a term that just won’t die. And website design is worse off for it.

Now you see people cram headlines, seven links, a Download This button, a Buy Now button, a testimonial, and three blog excerpts “above the fold”.

Guess what? That makes your site look like crap for no reason. Design firm Huge, Inc. ran tests on this issue and saw that 91% – 92% of users scrolled immediately upon landing on a page. So in their tests, not only did just about everyone scroll, they did so reflexively. Or exactly opposite what the “above the fold” crowd believes.


Where the Hell Is the “Fold” Anyway?

And guess what else? The “fold” is a moving target.

I’ve got a two 22″ monitors. Laptops generally have screens somewhere between 11″ – 17″. Tablets have 8″ or 9″ screens. And how big is that iPhone in your pocket?

The all important “fold” that nobody will ever scroll below is in a different place on each of those screens. So now where do you suggest we stuff that vital info you want “above the fold”?

Get. Over. It.

Stop thinking about this as a design issue with your site. If people aren’t scrolling down on your site, before you insist on cramming everything in the top 600 pixels of your page, you might want to consider the possibility that your copy simply sucks.

If people don't scroll on your site you might consider the possibility that your copy sucks. Click To TweetThe job of every line in your copy is to get the visitor to read the next line, or take a desired action. If people aren’t scrolling down to see your content, while design could be the problem, it’s more likely that you have a copywriting problem.

The best design in the world won’t matter if your copy is bad. And there is a lot of bad copy out there on the internet.

Before you decide to put on your junior designer hat and have your web person drown out every pixel of white space at the top of your site, put on your editor hat and cast a critical eye on your website copy. Better yet, have someone else that you trust give your copy a critical once over.

If each line doesn’t compel your visitor to read the next line or take the action you want them to take, start dealing with that and forget about the mythical fold.

Your website will be better off for it.

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Dave Soucy

I design, build, and maintain kickass WordPress websites for small businesses and non-profits. If your website isn't cutting it, let's chat.

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