Design Dilemmas: Everybody scrolls

One of the most frequently asked questions faced by digital designers is: “Can we put that above the fold?”

‘What fold?’ is normally the question that follows in my head. There has always been a bit of debate amongst designers about the ‘fold’. Never more so than with the arrival of tablets and smartphones, which have changed the way we view and navigate content online. With a variety of devices and screen resolutions, there is no one solution that fits all anymore. The fold for one device could be half of the page for another. 

So is the fold really relevant in web design?

The term ‘above the fold’ was originally a print concept. It derived from the practice of showing the most important news story on the top half of a newspaper, allowing the story to still be visible when folded. It was later adopted by the digital community to refer to a section of the webpage that is visible without scrolling.

There seems to be a general fear that if content is not above the fold the user will not see or read it. What this actually comes down to is a fear of users not scrolling. But this fear simply isn’t relevant anymore. We now live in a multi screen world that has taught users to scroll and swipe, and has thus changed the way in which websites are designed. Scrolling has become second nature to the vast majority of internet users (if you are still reading this, it’s likely you have had to scroll to do so).

Don’t get me wrong. Putting key content in the first 600px, such as your logo, navigation and brand messaging etc., is definitely important for catching users’ attention. However, it is also equally important not to compress all your quality content into this small space. Shop owners don’t fill their window displays with every single item of clothing in the shop. They only display the best and most exciting items of clothing to entice visitors to come in and explore. The content on your site should do the same. 

How? When designing, there are some simple things you can do to encourage users to scroll. Firstly, look closely at the hierarchy of content across the entire site. We look for the content the user will find most important and place that near the top of the page (your shop window items). The rest of the content follows in order of importance beneath. Secondly, you can design visual cues to show more content exists ‘below the fold’ (think of this as window promotions). This helps to keep drawing the user’s attention further down the page. Ultimately, users will always scroll if you intrigue them enough to do so.

Instead of focusing all of our attention on designing for the fold, we should concentrate on telling a story through our design and content that makes the user want to scroll, read on and explore our site.

At Realise, this is exactly what we work with you to create.