Newspapers — folded in half, stacked by a cash register — have just one job: convincing you to pick one up. They do this by putting compelling content where you can’t miss it: above the fold.
If only simple, magic bullets like that worked with websites. Websites aren’t newspapers, though.
If there’s no fold on websites, why does this idea persist?
The concept of the fold has a certain mystique. It feels like insider knowledge, a trade secret that has the power to drive behaviour.
The idea of the fold is out-dated
Not only is the fold a throwback to newspapers, it’s a relic of the long-past era of desktop-first website design and thinking.
Visitors to your website might be using anything from a 3 ½–inch smartphone to a 30-inch desktop display. Page layouts can be tailored to suit the size of a visitor’s screen — but there’s no guarantee that your site’s masthead and your important announcement/feature/lure/call-to-action will be above the fold on everyone’s device of choice.
Users won’t scroll is a myth
The concern about getting content above the fold is implicitly connected to the concern that people don’t scroll — they just indiscriminately click.
The web officially turned 25 in 2014; it hasn’t been a novelty since the late 1990s (if not earlier). Everyone has figured out scrolling.
Even being above the fold is no guarantee
There’s a tendency to assume that visitors always come in through the front door — the site’s Home page. Often they do, but when their keyword search, bookmark, or 3rd-party link takes them to a page deeper in your site, they may never get to see the all-important above-the-fold content on the home page.
How can we make sure they still get the message?
The whole point of putting something above the fold is to make sure people see it and act on it. Attend the event, call the number, buy the thing, tell their friends; whatever it is, it’s important that it happens.
Forget the fold; there are other, better ways to get there:
- copy and/or photography that grabs attention and drives action
- make sure your call-to-action doesn’t look like an ad — people have long-since gone blind to anything that even remotely looks like an ad
- avoid shouty, bossy phrases like “CLICK HERE!” like the plague that they are (I’ve written more about Click Here syndrome)
- consider putting your call-to-action at the bottom of the page — yes, the bottom — where people stop scrolling.