If you’re an online-savvy individual, you have probably heard of the term “the fold”, and about the overall idea of keeping all the important information regarding your business “above the fold” of your website. Over the years, I have had a number of customers bring their concerns regarding “the fold” to my attention both before and during the developmental process of their home/landing page.
When the term “the fold” was initially coined, it referred to a newspapers' actual fold line and the importance of displaying the most relevant or eye-catching information before the actual halfway point of a newspaper’s front page—i.e. “above the fold”.
However, the idea of a website fold is slightly different when compared to the newspaper. Unlike the newspaper, in the online world there are number of factors that can affect the actual position of the fold.
First of all, the position is heavily dependent on the size of your Internet browser window. Over the last decade, computer screens have changed in sized significantly. Ten years ago, I was operating on a 14-inch screen with 800x600 resolution, which meant more than 70% of an average page was below the fold. Today, my MacBook Pro has a 15-inch widescreen display with 1440x900 resolution—between the resolution and other factors, now over 60% of an average webpage is visible.
The secondary factor that will affect the position of the fold is an individual user’s browser selection, toolbar settings and default font size. Depending on whether an individual is using Safari, IE, Firefox or Chrome, the top portion of the browser window may range from sparse or very crowded. Personally (despite my husband’s disapproval), I love Firefox. Yes it’s not as “cool” as Safari and not as “new age” as Google’s Chrome, but it has a friendly, mostly minimal interface that fits my usage patterns. Don’t get me started on any of the IEs, though. Depending on your primary online browser and selected browser font size, the amount of information that is displayed below or above the fold will vary.
Now, the question to ask is: How should a business owner and their web designer address the fold in the real world?
One-way to approach the issue of “the fold” is to try to predict its approximate positioning based on your target market. Understanding your target market and knowing your target audience is the key in being able to pinpoint the rough position based on their computer screens and browsers. If your company’s target market is an older age group who didn’t grow up using computers and generally doesn’t spend much time online, it’s safe to say that IE or Firefox (with some exceptions) is their browser, as it is usually the default. And, they are likelier to have their browser font size set higher due to poor eye sight. If your target market is younger and uses the web for most of their business searches, Firefox, Chrome and Safari (for Mac users) would be a safe assumption to make in their browser preferences. And their browser font size is probably set at the default or smaller, making the website fold at a much lower point of the screen.
Secondary, when trying to predict the approximate location of the fold knowing your target markets income level can help you narrow down their possible computer screen sizes. If you target audience has high discretional income, they are more likely to be operating on a larger screen then your average user--in which case the issue of the fold isn’t as big of a concern. However, if your target audience is a lower income group, they are more likely to be operating on an older machine with a smaller or lower-resolution screen, and the idea of the fold becomes more of a concern.
Now, regardless whether or not you can predict the position of the fold on your audience’s screen, the most important factor to consider when laying out a home page is Content Relevance and Hierarchy. When not knowing the exact position of the fold, it’s better to be safe than sorry. Yes, these days more then ever, individuals are a lot more likely to scroll past the website’s page fold, but it’s still important to include the most important items about your business near the top of your website. Features and services that you would like to highlight regarding your business should be present above the so-called “fold.”
Identifying the important information that you would like to present to your website visitors is key. If your goal is to capture your visitors attention within the first 8 second of landing on your website, consider what that information is and where it should be displayed on the page. Identify the features and services you would like your visitors to spot upon their initial landing. If your home page is overcrowded with too much information, you’re more likely to scare visitors away and lose potential leads. However, not presenting the right information above the fold can also result in lost sales as well. It’s a fine line to walk, but a proper website design will make or break your online advertising efforts.
Choosing a web designer that can guide your website project in the right direction, provide their marketing expertise and position your home page for high conversion rates is essential in online marketing. After all, in the long run, a poorly designed website can actually cost you money beyond the initial investment and may even affect your return on investment of other advertising efforts.