If you've spent any time in the world of web design, you've probably heard the term above the fold. This term originated in the newspaper industry, where it refers to the content that is literally on the top half of the page -- the part that's showing when the paper is folded in half.
In web design, the term has a similar if slightly different meaning -- above the fold is the portion of a web page that displays without having to scroll. This area can vary from screen to screen, depending on resolution -- a few years ago, most people viewed websites at a 600x800 resolution, which is a significantly smaller area than the standard 1024x768 resolution enjoyed by around 85% of internet users today.
To determine where you consider the fold to be on your website, do a little research -- define your target audience, then find statistics to confirm their web browsing habits -- you might find that a significantly older audience also has older computers, for example, and that a smaller screen area best serves your needs.
What should go above the fold? All your most important content, as well as the elements that define your brand. Some of these include:
Consistent branding is important, and every site should have a standard header that includes the logo and tagline for a company or organization.
Strong site navigation is one of the most critical elements of any website -- and it should always be above the fold. Take the time to make sure your site content is well organized into appropriate buckets and let the site nav naturally guide users through your content.
Call To Action
If your websites main purpose is to encourage the visitor to take action in one way or another then your call to action needs to be above the fold. Its important for you to be very clear and to tell your visitors exactly where to click, who to call, and how to move forward.
If your business hopes to generate phone calls from their website make sure the phone number is easy to find. Adding Call us today! or Call now! in the space near the number is even better. Draw attention to the path you want visitors to take and help lead them to the place you want them to go.
Building a mailing list is important for any business or organization -- it provides a direct communication channel with your most devoted followers. Make sure your newsletter signup is prominent and easy to find.
Social Media Links
This should go without saying but by now you should know that social media is a critical part of any web presence these days, and you'll want to make finding your social networks easy for users -- it provides a way for them to follow you without having to remember to come back and check the site on a frequent basis.
Search (For Larger Sites)
With websites becoming bigger and more complex by the day, search is becoming an important navigational feature to find content that might not be featured front and center -- be sure your sites search function is easy for users to find if you are going to use one.
Your Most Important And Up-to-the-minute Content
Whatever is important to you right now is what should be above the fold on your homepage. A scroller or carousel that displays multiple items can be used to maximize space if you have a lot of content you want to feature on a daily or weekly basis.
Don't Forget Mobile
Although mobile devices are changing the game in terms of standard screen size -- and even orientation, with landscape vs. portrait viewing on many phones -- understanding how to design for the fold is still an important best practice in website design.
One Last Thing
Its important to note that Google is singling out sites that place excessive above-the-fold ads; they're not trying to penalize advertising-supported publishers who use a normal amount of advertising to help monetize their content. But be careful.
Danny Sullivan, stated that "Clearly, you're in trouble if you have little to no content showing above the fold for commonly-used screen resolutions." If you suddenly see a drop in traffic and you're heavy on the ads, chances are you've been hit by the new algorithm.
So our Advice, take a good long, hard look at your website and think about how it measures up. If you do not have these elements above the fold and you are ad heavy it may be time to rethink your page layout. Whether its a little tweaking or a major overhaul, you will be surprised at what a great page layout with all the right elements will do for your business.