“The Fold” Is Dead. Stop Designing For It.

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“The Fold” used to matter. Newspapers would put their huge, important headlines above the newspaper fold so that the reader would be absolutely sure to see them. Print people would do the same with brochures. Advertisers paid big money to be seen there.

Web design took its cue from this. Things above the imaginary website fold included giant logos, huge photos, important text content, and big ads. The plan was to show important stuff at the top, and “don’t make people scroll”.

Know When To Scroll Up, Know When To Fold Up

Then something changed: smartphones and tablets emerged. Suddenly much of “the fold” became invisible to users when arriving at a website.

I repeat myself when under stress, I repeat...
I repeat myself when under stress, I repeat…

Change is disruptive, uncomfortable, and sometimes expensive, but many moved forward anyway to adapt to the new reality. Hardware and web designers led the charge, and website owners gradually began to fall in line. Monster headers were gracefully reduced. Instead of having the giant cute image with no clue about what the point of the site was, samples of (or at least clues about) the important content were made visible, encouraging the visitor to scroll a bit to find more.

Was scrolling still annoying? Yes, but with the ability to swipe instead of clicking and dragging, it wasn’t nearly as bad as before.

Oh, a cute Scottish Fold kitty! I wonder if Tech Tabby and she will get along?
Oh, a cute Scottish Fold kitty! I wonder if Tech Tabby and she will fold some origami together?

Many site owners have been left behind. If they’re not tech savvy, they may simply be unaware of this. Or they know about it, but lack the budget for a full redesign. Still, keep in mind that the number of smartphone users is growing so fast that ignoring them is a terrible idea if your website is important to your business. I’m afraid there are even professional designers who are still designing these gigantic “site tops”. Gulp.

Change Is Inevitable, Except For Me

In my own work, I run into lots of resistance to change. In life, the first thing you see often becomes your “mother”. If someone has a site design that they’re very attached to, they will fight any suggestion of change. I had one client who already had a mobile-ready site which would adjust very nicely to smaller screens. She wanted me to shut that off, because she didn’t like the mobile layout – she actually thought it was a bug. I reluctantly honored her request after she rejected my warning about irritating her customers, who now have to scroll in every direction, not just down, to see anything on her site.

Ben Folds, do you?
Ben Folds, do you?

Hint: you know that pretty slideshow full of stock images that you like at the top of your site? It’s pretty, but do you truly need it? Sliders are already going out of style (not just those tiny overpriced hamburgers). If they’re too big, they can also slow down your site. I’m sure you wouldn’t want to be the last person who has one.

Special Groups In The Fold

There are some appropriate exceptions: photographers and artists, for instance. There are also ways to finesse this – for instance, some very hipster sites will use giant images, but put them behind important content.

But you are too savvy to make that mistake, right? A normal mobile-friendly site makeover can be a small project. If you want to lose the giant “foldy” header, things can be re-arranged, re-written, or re-sized as well.

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