The Fold

There has been a long running debate amongst web designers as to whether or nor “the fold” matters, or even exists. Here are my thoughts:

  1. Of *course* users know how to scroll. Just like they know how to unfold physical media. But knowing how is not the same as doing.
  2. Everything else being equal, people are less likely to do things that take more effort. Scrolling takes effort (not much, but some), so users are more likely to read things above the fold than below it.
  3. There are actually two folds – the first is at the bottom of your browser window. The second is in your head. It is the amount of scrolling + reading *you* are willing to do before you give up on a web page. Some people who visit this page will not read this sentence – it will be below their personal fold.
  4. Everything else being equal, users will do things that they typically find most rewarding. If web-designers believe in the fold, they will put the content they consider most important near the top of the page. As a result, we actually train users not to scroll – thus re-reinforcing the idea of the existence of the fold.
  5. Users develop strategies for getting what they want from the web. These strategies vary from person to person and from day to day. The way I/you look at a page might not be typical. You can’t always generalise your own experience.
  6. Without watching what real users actually do, we’re just guessing about the whole fold issue. (Although some of our guesses are more educated than others).

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