Above the fold is the upper half of the front page of a newspaper or tabloid where an important news story or photograph is often located. In modern use, above the fold refers to the immediately visible content on a web page load.
Above the fold refers to everything immediately visible to a user when they first land on a webpage — all the text, image and design elements the reader can see at a glance without scrolling down. As a design concept it is uniquely important because it determines the first impression for a new visitor, and establishes visual familiarity for those returning.
Above the Fold – Where does the term originate from?
The idea can be traced back centuries, almost to the invention of the printing press.
It was formalised as a technique for capturing readers’ attention by daily newspapers in the 1800’s. Size and printing formats demanded that broadsheets be printed on large sheets of paper, then folded so they could fit easily on news kiosks. That meant only the top half was visible to passers-by.
The newspaper industry quickly worked out that they needed to make that half attention-grabbing – with big headlines, large images, creative typography and other design elements the eye could quickly take hold of.
As publishing business models and web design moved online in the 1990’s, the term continued to stick and basic principle remained the same. Digital content simply swapped the physical fold for a scrollbar.
Different browsers, devices and screen sizes determine where the ‘fold’ appears. Tablet, smartphone, laptop or desktop screens can yield a larger, smaller, or differently-formatted space above-the-fold. For the most part marketers don’t need to worry about the differences.
Instead it’s important to focus on the page elements they want people to see immediately, in order to grab attention and convince them to scroll down for more.
Some SEO specialists believe that content displayed above the fold is given preferential weighting in Google’s algorithm, versus content below the scrollbar.
Does above the fold still matter?
Yes – above the fold content placement is still very much important. Given that people in todays modern society either engage quickly or abandon a website/page. So, it’s very important to ensure that your key message is clear above the fold (immediately visible on page load without the user having to scroll).
Do people scroll below the fold?
An answer with no right or wrong answer. People may or may not scroll, it’s very much niche/content dependent. For example, on a landing page for a question where the answer might appear above the fold, it’s less likely a user will need to scroll. For an eCommerce website, users are more likely to scroll down to browse a product range.
The general best practice –
Make sure your above the fold content describes exactly what is on offer, quickly and in a fashion that supports good user experience. If you are selling a product or service, show users what is on offer along with any key information of importance.
Above the fold, show a picture, describe your range briefly along with delivery and ordering information.
How can I measure above or below the fold scroll performance?
There are some great tools out there to help you visualise mass scroll behaviour as well as above the fold and below the fold engagement. Some of the most popular tools include: