Ironing out the folds
You may have noticed that this website scrolls. No, don’t adjust your screens or call the police, it’s all perfectly normal and natural.
One interesting concept in web design is known as ‘the fold’. The idea is that everything that’s important (or indeed just everything) should fit on a visitor’s screen when they first land on the site. The concept of the fold comes from newspapers where the most important or eye catching story would be visible when the newspaper lay flat and folded in the shop, enticing the visitor to buy the newspaper.
This concept was then adopted by the web design community, who bastardised it to mean ‘squish everything on the page into the top, because scrolling is evil’.
This is pure tosh.
People are well versed in the act of scrolling on computers now- they’ve had long enough to realise that the little wheel on the mouse or the bar at the side of their browser gives them access to an underworld of juicy content below the featured stuff.
A website’s ultimate aim is to provide a multitude of engaging content throughout the site and down the pages, but this unwritten rule of ‘the fold’ states that everything interesting should be in the top 10cm (we use the measurement anachronistically) of the site and the rest is all irrelevant or bonus information. Surely a better way of doing things would be to entice the visitor down the page?* After all, it’s a lot harder to turn a page on a newspaper than it is to scroll down a page on a website.
Of course, there are design issues – sometimes for instance, a horizontal division in a website may end up at the bottom of someone’s arbitrarily resized browser window (after all, who browses full-screen except in presentations?) and because they don’t consult the scroll bar for a prompt as to the height of the page, they assume that’s just where the page ends. This has happened in a few cases, but if anything this is actually the fault of ‘the fold’. By placing so much of the sparkly interesting content at the top of the site in its own little happy place, it does nothing to prompt the user to scroll down further.
So what’s the solution? Well, there isn’t one solution. If there was a universal solution, all good websites would look the same, and cease being good – well, in terms of being eye-catching at least. What’s important to recognise is that there are no hard and fast rules; a good web designer will make a site work. Rules are there to be broken, or at least challenged. Our solutions are as individual as each of our clients, and by taking a creative approach to the design of our websites, we ensure that wherever the content is on the page, it’ll be seen by the right people.
*You may have noticed a recent trend for some sites that make you click through endless pages, despite there being loads of room to scroll (like maybe the website of a popular BBC motoring programme, ahem). This is done not because of the fold, or indeed any design reasons, but to continually present you with new advertising banners!