For the Love of Cheese, There is No Fold!

posted this in
Web Design
on January 16th, 2013

I’ve never really understood the idea that you can optimize landing pages and websites simply by placing things “above the fold.” In fact, any “optimization list” that includes this advice is immediately suspect, to me.

So when a client recently expressed their desire for everything on their new website to be above this invisible line, I immediately cringed. We took the time to carefully and tactfully outline why we thought this was not a good request.

And then I thought, “This would make a great blog.” So here are a few of our points to our client.

Electronic Devices Do Not Fold

Let’s get this one out of the way at the beginning – how often do you “fold” your computer screen, smartphone or tablet? (Disclaimer: Rocket Media is not responsible for broken devices as a result of you attempting to fold them.) Obviously, there is no actual fold on electronic devices, so why use it?

I know, “fold” was a term carried over from the time of physical, printed newspapers (those things that used to be delivered to your home and sold on every corner.) It was popular in the early days of the web because users were reluctant to scroll.

But times change and the term has become antiquated (much like newspapers themselves). The web and user behavior have evolved, which brings me to my next point…

We All Know How To Scroll

Just about everything you do on your computer necessitates scrolling. You scroll through your music library to pick a song, scroll down on text documents to read and scroll through your email. And the increase in mobile devices and smaller screens has made us even more comfortable with scrolling (and if you’ve read this far, you’ve scrolled!)

Therefore, the old excuse that users don’t want to scroll cannot and should not be used when making design decisions because, well, it simply isn’t true.

It’s Impossible To Define The Fold

Most proponents of “the fold” say that it is defined as the part of a webpage that is visible to a user without scrolling. The problem is simply that it is impossible to know what parts of a design that is.

There are a crazy number of screen resolutions that determine what is seen by your web visitors (See thereisnofold.com for a great visual). Not to mention that the browser they are using and the size of their current window or tab will affect what they see, as well.

So asking a designer to keep certain elements “above the fold” is not only silly, but impossible for the designer to accomplish because no two website visitors will have the exact same experience.

What’s “above the fold” on your computer could very well be below the fold for your customers.

Strategy & Design Should Dictate Placement

Many landing-page optimization websites encourage web marketers to place forms and calls to action “above the fold.” But is that really what’s best? Shouldn’t the placement be determined by what is important to the user, based on your strategy?

Case in point: Content Verve created a landing page for a client that moved the call to action (CTA) to the bottom of the page. That’s right, they moved the small form and CTA to what others might call “below the fold.” And guess what happened – a 304% lift in conversions.

This isn’t an anomaly, either. Marketing Experiments also found moving a call to action lower on a page resulted in a 20% increase in conversion. So what gives?

The Fold is a Myth

First of all, don’t take these cases to mean you should always place your CTA below the fold, either – the point is that the fold doesn’t exist. These companies placed their CTA where it made the most sense to the users (not above some arbitrary line called “the fold”) and they benefited greatly.

The same can be said of the placement of every item within your web design. Base decisions on strategy, not on some mythological fold.

We agree that important items should be placed higher and headlines or buttons you want people to see first, should be more prominent on the page. But let’s all agree that referring to something that doesn’t exist does us no good.

Have you ever had a “web expert” tell you to place something above the fold? What was your response? Tell us on Facebook or Twitter.