With Halloween around the corner, we thought it was only right to discuss something truly horrifying that plagues our modern design world. A real nail-biter of a curse! Please, if you’re faint of heart, don’t read on. You’ve been warned.

The term ‘the fold’ refers back to newspaper publishing. Once printed, the newspapers would be folded for easy distribution and display and so typesetters and publishers were always keen to keep the most pertinent and eye catching information above this fold (under the Newspaper’s logo) in order to get people to pick them up and buy them. Take the following as an example:

Photo by Jon S via flickr.com.
Photo by Jon S via flickr.com.

Makes sense, right?

Well, ‘the fold’ is now a term commonly used throughout web design. ‘Above the fold’ denotes the area you can see instantly when you open up a webpage (usually a logo, large image, video, banner or statement), and ‘Below the fold’ describes the complementary information that follows, meaning that you have to SCROLL to see it.

Now, we’re not entirely sure when this happened (perhaps when smartphones and tablets became more prevalent within people’s’ lives and so the standard screen size formats altered) but rumour started to spread that web-users were AFRAID OF SCROLLING. What!? Why!?

We don’t know how many times we’ve heard “the website needs arrows to show people to scroll”, “reduce the banner height as we’re worried users won’t know that they should scroll past it”

Think of how many websites you’ve viewed in your life so far – how many of those websites were just one browser sized page that contained all of the information, with no clickable links out of that page? Very few, yes? Well, this is key because if you think about your experience of scrolling on the web so far, and how webpages have shaped your online behaviour, it would mean that you were very very used to scrolling, you would almost expect it. You’d be surprised if the option to scroll wasn’t there.

Think of some of the most popular sites on the internet currently; Twitter, Pinterest and Facebook all actively encourage the user to scroll in order to reach more content, and people love it.

People seem to believe that if your need to scroll is kept at a minimum, a website MUST BE easier to use and navigate, but this is where, for a number of reasons, we disagree.

  1. Your Key Content Doesn’t Really Need to Be Above the Fold

    Don’t be afraid to let your key message fall below the fold – we promise, it won’t get lost! If you employ a good web designer and are able to supply quality content, the use of space around your message will become key to selling it! Don’t try to squeeze everything into the space above the fold – web users nowadays are saavy enough to naturally scroll to get to what they’re looking for. Hey, sometimes actually hiding your message within the site for the user to discover can work – take a look at the following example that isn’t as it first appears  http://www.akademiezubrowka.com/ (it’s actually a promotional website for the film ‘The Grand Budapest Hotel’)

  2. If Your Content is Good, Users will Read On

    Regardless of what your website is online to inform people about, or sell, and no matter how much or how little information you have on that site, as long as your content is relevant, has integrity and is well structured and organised – you should have no trouble in getting your point across to your target audience, whether it appears above or below that famed 600 pixel line.

    Consider different ways to interpret your information to mix things up for your users – graphics, animations, video, even sound. They are all ways to diversify your content and inspire your audience to want to learn more, thus digging deeper into your site.

    Try to prioritise the quality of your content, and let your web designer choose the appropriate page hierarchy. This is what we’re trained to do.

  3. Patronising Your Users Won’t Help

    Believe it or not, you don’t need to patronise your web users by supplying them with flashing arrows and cues to move down the page – they get it. After all, if Apple, the market leader in merging beautiful design with powerful technology, removed the scrollbar from Mac OS X as default in 2011, then that goes to show that users now see that visual cue as redundant – they don’t need it anymore, they are au fait with what to do. Ever heard the expression, don’t teach your grandmother to suck eggs? Yeah, it’s gross but its true.

  4. Less is More

    The more breathing room your content has, generally the more legible and  better understood it is. With this in mind, you really want to try and be as concise as possible with your content – this won’t only improve the usability but also the keywording on your site. Make copy short and snappy, make images impactful and actually MEAN SOMETHING (if you have to use stock imagery then make sure that it’s selected thoughtfully).

  5. Trust Your Designer

    Imagine that you employ an electrician to rewire your house because you know very little about electrics. You innately trust that they are incredibly knowledgeable, experienced and have done everything professionally, to a high standard and for your benefit (usually, this trust is based on testimonials and recommendations you’ve seen from other clients). It’s no different when hiring a web designer; trust that the decisions that they’ve made for your site are completely sound and are backed up by years of experience. That’s not to say that you shouldn’t give feedback, of course not (it’s the back and forth of this that makes our collaborative process so enjoyable), but to get the best out of your designer, believe in them and their knowledge, support experimentation, and together you can make something truly remarkable; a website that really stands out from the crowd and will get you noticed. Embrace a responsive approach to website design but don’t be held down by design rules and conventions that were created decades ago.

So, if you’ve read all of this blog post – congratulations! You’ve defeated the curse of the mighty fold and got past that massive banner! If you need any help or advice on how to navigate the ever changing world of web design and development, don’t hesitate to give us a call. Don’t get scared now.