Anyone familiar with web design will tell you to keep your relevant information above the fold.
But is it obsolete in the modern world?
The truth is that web design has been changing rapidly over the last half-decade and the age-old adage isn't necessarily true these days. Let's hop right in and we'll explore why things have changed and what you can do to react to modern web design.
What Does Above the Fold Mean?
For those who aren't familiar, the terminology behind "above the fold" comes from print. It refers to the top half of a newspaper or tabloid.
In web design, it would be more accurate to say that it comes before the scroll. It's the top part of the page which appears before the user scrolls down with their finger or mouse wheel.
Still, the terminology stuck and while it gets the occasional eye roll there's rarely any confusion when the term is used.
The general rule of thumb is that everything relevant to the page should be above the fold. That includes a short call to action, contact information, and what your page is there to do.
In the early days of the internet, it was fantastic advice. After all, most people were barely familiar with their computer at the time, let alone the internet. Your job was to make everything as easy as possible for people to find.
That's not the case these days.
Enter the Smartphone
Smartphones changed the way people use the internet. These days there's a huge percentage of people using tablets and smartphones to access the internet regularly.
In the second quarter of 2019, for instance, 59% of searches were made from some form of mobile device.
While there's a lot of thought given to using a reactive website that changes based on the size of a screen, few people actually consider the fact that mobile users often scroll rapidly. Think about it this way: some of the most common apps used on phones are for social media feeds.
Chances are that you're just as used to scrolling on your phone as prospective customers. What appears at the top of a page doesn't need to give you all of the information... it needs to hook you into scrolling downwards.
This has changed the way that websites are scanned for information.
It's not the death of the top of the page, but it's changed the way that it should be used.
Storytelling at the Top
Instead of placing all relevant information and a call to action at the top of a page, many people have opted for a different route:
Essentially, you get the user of the page hooked into reading a story as they scroll down the page. You can take advantage of this on both desktops and mobile devices but the approach will need to be different for you to get the best effect.
On a desktop webpage, for instance, large images can be seen clearly. You'll still want your menus visible and some easy way for the reader to do what you want, whether it's contacting you or signing up for a list.
However, placing content strategically after the hook and answering the viewer's questions as they scroll down is a great idea. You tell a "story" which is actually the answer to what your business does.
A successful hook will give you much more digital real estate to bring in your customers. You'll still want to incorporate the basics of drawing the eye. Content should be visually optimized and broken up with images.
Meanwhile, on a mobile site, you have less space to show the user what they want. Instead, you can launch directly into the story and bypass the larger hook you would use for a desktop version of the page.
In essence: you'll tell the same story but you'll use the strengths of the medium. A desktop hook draws the user into the story with a larger visual format, while a mobile version of the same page needs to present more information in a smaller space.