The concept of “The Fold” stems back from print newspapers, where publishers wanted to get attention even when the paper was folded for distribution: putting your key content “Above The Fold”.
In the early days of the web it evolved to effectively mean, “before a scroll”. Early websites were keen to have as little scrolling as possible for many reasons:-
At the time the typical user was less than pleased to have to scroll what would then be considered a great distance (remember screen resolutions used to be a lot smaller meaning less could be fit on a screen)
Web design was in its infancy, mostly completed by those who came from the print industry who were used to working with the fold
People had slow Internet connections, and longer pages where inherent with larger websites that took longer to download
The problem with the fold online is that it doesn’t actually exist. It’s a remnant of an old medium that doesn’t translate to digital. The reason that there is no fold online is because there are far too many screen resolutions (the number of pixels on screen, you could think of this as a monitor’s equivalent measurement to megapixels) and device possibilities (desktop computer, laptop, tablet, mobile phone, television, fridge) to be able to design around it. What is the fold for one device is a quarter of the page for another and the entire length for yet another.
The idea of having key information available to a user with as little work as possible is (for most websites) sound. A charity with a “donate now” button near the top of the website will probably get more donations than one right at the bottom, but that doesn’t mean to say everything the charity does needs to be above the scroll. Modern internet users have become used to scrolling (if you’re still reading this, the chances are that you have scrolled already), modern devices try and make it ‘fun’ (for example the iPhone will bounce when you scroll) - but most importantly: pixels are free, so there is little use in squashing important details into a tiny space. When everything is together they all shout - and when everything is shouting at a user, nothing is heard.
To a seasoned web designer, being able to scrap the idea of the fold opens an opportunity to think outside of the box and display your content in a way that will keep your customers engaged and coming back for more. Life below 600px (600 pixels being what could be roughly guessed to be a ‘fold’) demonstrates that long pages don’t need to be cramped with information or daunting and suggests the idea providing a “prize” at the bottom of a webpage with a trail to it.
At Rye we figure out the best way to display your content, not just the prettiest. We sit down with our customers and really get into their business to figure out key selling points and opportunities. Sometimes these are displayed best within a fold-led design, and other times they should breathe.