“The Fold” does not exist in web design. There, I said it. Neither do Santa Claus, the Easter Bunny or the Boogie Man. There was once a time when scrolling on a website was taboo. It was frowned upon, because the train of thought was that information accessed by moving down on a page would never be seen. Computer monitors were smaller, and people weren’t as computer-literate, so website designs were confined to smaller proportions and simple user experiences.
The term “going below the fold” originally was used to describe content on the front cover of a newspaper, that was hidden on the bottom-side of a folded newspaper. It featured stories that were important enough to go on the front cover, but were not the cover story. The phrase was then adopted by the web community and set the tone for UX and design methods. Heck, we can remember a time when we had to jam 1200 pixels of information in a 600 pixel height. Lots of small thumbnails, small type and scrawny page layouts. Truth be told, we cringe when we look back at what the web used to be. Just looking at some of our old work makes us slightly nauseated because of how the web has changed.
Many designers, production artists, account managers, project managers and clients were coming from the world of print, and there were many traits that they carried over into the land of digital. The most contradicting aspect of not going below the fold was the fact that every page had anywhere from 3 to 5 paragraphs of information. So you would see all sorts of “innovative” solutions to condense all of this information into a tiny space. Fortunately, like most things in this world, the web evolved.
Circa 2005, monitors and laptops were being offered in larger sizes with higher resolutions. Over time, monitor resolutions increased, screen sizes became bigger, and a multitude of alternative devices such as tablets and mobile phones began to reshape the web design landscape. As computer technology advanced, so did web design. Users were no longer confined to track pads and mice. They used their fingers to scroll down pages and swipe for more information.
Higher resolutions, larger monitor sizes and new technologies meant more real estate to work within. The amount of real estate allotted to a page layout increased exponentially. Almost 10 years later, web design has very few boundaries, with mobile and tablet devices taking internet-viewing market share away from computers. Truth be told, scrolling was never a problem – people were.
Not only did computers change, but so did people. More people have become tech savvy and adopted technology as part of their lives. Technology’s reach spans early childhood to grandparent-hood. Seriously, think about how many older relatives now have Facebook or Gmail accounts. 10 years ago, they barely knew how to turn on a computer. More people being tech-friendly means that websites can become more complex, and certain aspects of the user experience like scrolling are no longer taboo.
The greatest aspect of web design is that it is constantly evolving at rates that are uncanny, because it relies so much on technology. What’s popular now will become obsolete in a few years, as newer development advances are made with HTML, CSS and the like. As designers and builders of websites, it’s crucial that we stay up to speed with current trends, and educate our clients to stay ahead of the pack and not worry about falling below the fold.
Looking into your next web design, marketing, or redesign project? We’d love to learn more about your challenges and talk about how we can help.