“I want all my content to fit on the screen without having to scroll” is a demand that web designers still hear all too often. It’s an ever-present in the design spec that still exists even though it’s as out of date as VHS video recorders and cheese & pineapple on sticks!
So why is it that people still insist on cramming content into the visible area of the page, otherwise known as “above the fold”?
What is the fold?
The phenomenon of the “page-fold” stems from the early days of the web, when the user experience was completely new, and there were no previous user patterns or experiences to draw on for comparison. This meant that the idea of scrolling was an alien one.
Now with the huge growth in internet use, the concept of scrolling is very familiar. Frequently users are more than happy to scroll down a page of content, digesting as little or as much as required.
This is mainly due to the fact that users tend to “scan” web pages rather than actually read them. Taking scanning into account removes the need for navigation to further pages of content, which in reality only serves to create additional page load times.
But of course a web page can still be too long if content isn’t well organised. Text should always be presented in short sentences and paragraphs, using clear titles and sub-headings.
Where is the fold?
After establishing what the fold is, the issue of finding the fold is far more difficult. It is in fact not a precise object or value, but more of a mythical being!
The page fold will in fact be different for each user. Its location will be determined by screen size, window size, browsers, toolbars and browser add-ons. This obviously means that designing for the page fold is in some ways like a game of pin the tail on the donkey! Or trying to score a bullseye on an ever shifting target.
A web page is not a book or a sheet of A4 paper, so why try and make it act like one?
Each medium has its advantages and disadvantages, so why not embrace the advantages and try to use them to greater effect?
- Don’t try to squeeze your web page, users will naturally scroll down
- Make life easier by dividing pages into sections for easy scanning. This will make your content much more digestible and users won’t feel they have to attempt to read everything