Is “The Fold” Really a Myth?

Sometimes it feels like “the fold” comes up in every design-related conversation I have with stakeholders. “Can’t we put more content above the fold?” “This banner pushes the call to action below the fold.” And so on.

Which is why it is refreshing to read an article like this one (with lots of nice examples) from Kiss Metrics which questions the whole validity of the concept of “the fold.”

After all, when someone emphasizes the importance of the fold, which one are they talking about? The one on their desktop, their laptop, or their mobile device?

On top of this lack of clarity about what even constitutes the fold, research has shown that putting calls-to-action below the fold can sometimes actually increase conversion rate.

So, if we don’t know where the fold even is, and sometimes putting your CTAs below the fold is better and sometimes putting them above the fold is better, what can web designers do?

Clearly, the answer is to test what works for your content on your website – otherwise, equally valid arguments can be made for placing elements above or below the fold.

Of course, “let’s test” is not always going to be a practical response to this conundrum. So, this takeaway from the article is worth remembering when someone argues for putting more ‘above the fold.’ Few people read beyond the first 50 words or so of your content (maybe 20%).

However, of those people that read beyond this limit, readership drops off very little, even if your content is hundreds of words in length and your users have to scroll.

The key, therefore, is to capture your reader’s initial interest at the top of the page so that they engage with your content. Then, as far as the fold is concerned, it matters less about whether your call-to-action is above or below it, and rather that you have provided sufficient motivation for the reader to take action.

Higher conversion rates have nothing to do with whether the button is above the fold, and everything to do with whether the button is below the right amount of good copy.

For an email subscription form, the right amount of copy might be a brief summary of the benefits a reader will receive if they subscribe. In many instances, this can easily be positioned above the fold.

For a conversion that requires more user motivation, such as signing up to use a service, the reader will likely require a greater explanation of the benefits, possibly moving the call-to-action well below the fold.

3 thoughts to “Is “The Fold” Really a Myth?”

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