Find out more about what life is like below 600 pixels and why not to fall into the trap of thinking that there is a digital 'fold'.
How did you know you’d find our article down here? Could it be that you are now so accustomed to scrolling it actually didn’t matter where we decided to start? The fact is, more happens further down the page than you might realise. So what is ‘the fold’ and should people still be placing so much importance on it?
The term ‘above the fold’ has been inherited from the newspaper industry. It relates to the reliance on the content above the physical crease to capture reader attention and encourage purchase.
This concept has since transitioned into the digital realm where website designers ensure core messages and engaging imagery are placed in full view upon opening a web page or email. Yet, without a newspaper in hand to simply fold in half, and with the increasing range of screen sizes, screen resolutions, unique browser displays and responsive design techniques1, the fold has become increasingly elusive.
Newspapers may be purchased on the strength of front-page content yet, no one ever doubts that customers will flick through ensuing pages or, at least, follow the lead story as it continues onto the inside pages. Yet, why is there widespread misconception that once an email is opened, recipients will only read the messages crammed into the top 600 pixels of the page? People are now just as accustomed to scrolling as they are turning the pages of a newspaper. It’s completely natural, almost like what opposable thumbs really evolved for, not to mention, much more efficient than clicking though multiple pages.
“Scrolling is a constitution
Clicking is a decision”
- Josh Porter2
More than 65.7% of digital engagement actually occurs below the fold3. The expectation for immediate results in the digital world has also led users to become increasingly impatient and scrolling before the page has fully loaded. Consequently, the content directly below the fold often has higher viewership that content above it.
Source: T. Haile (2014)
There is however an important difference between the printed and the digital fold; when a customer is looking above the fold in an email, they have already registered their interest by opening the email – the equivalent of purchasing the newspaper. Therefore the subject line is the opportunity to capture attention (the equivalent of the lead headline), meaning that the content of the email could be viewed as page two and a continuation of the story.
Undoubtedly the fold is now an endangered species in the digital landscape but before trying to develop a conservation program; perhaps it’s worth considering why nothing will be affected by its inevitable demise.
Every communication aims to evoke a response from its reader – usually in the form of an action. The most important thing is not whether the call to action appears above or below the fold but that it appears at the point at which the reader is ready to commit to take action. The likelihood is that supporting copy or content is needed to encourage this action. The manifestation of this ‘ready’ point will differ according to many factors, not least, how targeted the email is, how much recipients know before opening the email and how complicated the desired action is4. Yet all of these success-determining factors have one thing in common; they will not change when the digital fold becomes extinct.
Our tips: If you inspire a customer to open your email, that’s half the battle won. The next job is to present them with enough reason or intrigue to get them to scroll down. To keep them scrolling, reveal manageable chunks of beautifully presented information that promotes easy skimming and scanning. They will then have seen enough information to make an informed decision - hit them with your call to action.
If the customer is still reading at this point they are truly engaged and more likely to make the desired action, despite hardly any of their attention being focused on the top of the page as, after all, there is life below the fold.
1 A. Caldwell (2013). The Brolik Blog, Above the Fold vs. Below the Fold: Everyone Scrolls. http://brolik.com/blog/above-the-fold-vs-below-the-fold-everyone-scrolls/ accessed 22.02.2016
2 J. Porter (2014) in C. Pearson (2015). Rareview, Scrolling and the “above the fold” myth. http://rareview.com/scrolling-and-the-above-the-fold-myth/ accessed 22.02.2016
3 T. Haile (2014) Time, What You Think You Know About the Web Is Wrong. http://time.com/12933/what-you-think-you-know-about-the-web-is-wrong/ accessed 23.02.2016
4 D. B. Tennant (2012). Kissmetrics Blog, Why “The Fold” Is A Myth – And Where To Actually Put Your Calls To Action. https://blog.kissmetrics.com/why-the-fold-is-a-myth/ accessed 23.02.2016