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Can we finally end this debate, please?
The dispute on scrolling and “the fold”
You’re reading this because you scrolled down.
People have learned to scroll, yet many cling to the belief that content needs to be “above the fold” to be visible. It’s just not true.
The term “above the fold” originates from the printed newspaper. It refers to the visible content —the prime real estate — on front page of a newspaper before it’s unfolded. Articles printed above the fold took precedence over those below the fold. The concept of “the fold” transferred to the digital arena when websites were once static versions of their paper counterparts. On a computer “the fold” became the bottom edge of the browser window. Anything above that edge was visible without having to scroll down. The idea of the fold in web design was so deeply ingrained in our belief system that, even as the web has evolved and the fold has disappeared (really), we can’t seem to shake the concept.
Take a deep breath and rest assured there is no fold. Then scroll down to keep reading.
See? You’re still here. Good, because I have some proof the fold is no longer relevant.
Let’s begin by looking at screen sizes. With the wide variety of digital devices accessing the web, it’s nearly impossible to pinpoint a common fold at all. The closest we can get to locating the fold on a desktop browser is looking at the most popular screen resolutions. As of November 2018, the three most popular screen resolutions are: 1366x768 (22.75%), 1920x1080 (18%), and 1440x900 (6%).1
More importantly, mobile use now comprises slightly more than half of all online browsing. The fold on a desktop browser is not in the same place as the fold on a mobile browser. In Apple products alone, there are sixteen different mobile devices with eight different screen sizes. Android has ten different mobile screen sizes. The height of the screen also depends upon its orientation and whether it is being held in portrait or landscape mode. And let’s not forget about the numerous other mobile platforms with various screen sizes that are also on the market.
Shall we also dive into wearables? Nah. You get the point. The fold is a moving target.
User testing conducted by design agency Huge measured scrolling below the fold. They tested a variety of designs with and without visual scrolling prompts. The results revealed that “almost all participants scrolled, no matter what… regardless of how they are cued to do so.”2
After researching almost 100,000 pageviews, heatmap service provider ClickTale found that people used the scrollbar on 76% of the pages with a majority of those users reaching the bottom of the page. Their study also indicates a slight bias towards points lower down on the page. This finding by Clicktale is confirmed by data analytics provider Chartbeat. They analyzed data from 2 billion visits and found that “66% of attention on a normal media page is spent below the fold.”3
Even back in 2011, Apple realized that people are so familiar with scrolling, they removed the scrollbar from Mac OS X.5
If the facts and statistics above don’t persuade you, consider this: you scrolled down here to read this. You. Are. Below. The. Fold.
So, the next time your designer places important content lower down on the page, you can take comfort knowing it really is getting noticed.
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- “Desktop Screen Resolution Stats Worldwide.” StatCounter Global Stats, gs.statcounter.com/screen-resolution-stats/desktop/worldwide.
- Gordon, Rebecca, and Evan Dody. “Everybody Scrolls.” Huge, 3 Dec. 2014, www.hugeinc.com/articles/everybody-scrolls.
- Haile, Tony. “What You Get Wrong about the Internet.” Time, Time, 9 Mar. 2014, time.com/12933/what-you-think-you-know-about-the-web-is-wrong/.
- Schwartz, Josh. “Scroll Behavior across the Web.” Chartbeat, blog.chartbeat.com/2013/08/12/scroll-behavior-across-the-web/.
- Pearson, Chuck. “The ‘above the Fold’ Myth.” Medium.com, Medium, 21 Sept. 2016, medium.com/rareview/the-above-the-fold-myth-f0f93b1b9875.