I have been planning and designing websites for quite a while now and in recent years, the same notes keep creeping into our clients’ revision request: “Reduce the header height, move sections upward, try to keep everything above the fold.

Stop worrying about the fold. Don’t throw your best practices out the window, but stop cramming stuff above a certain pixel point. You’re not helping anyone. Open up your designs and give your users some visual breathing room. If your content is compelling enough your users will read it to the end.

Boxes and Arrows on Blasting the Myth of the Fold

This could be a residue of the news-print industry where newspapers come folded up and the area “above the fold” must be exciting enough to compel people to purchase the paper.

We can apply the same argument to a website, whereby the fold line represents the area where vertical scrolling is required to view more content of a webpage. Instead of cramming as many “important information” into the area, try to prioritize and understand your audience. A first time visitor to your website needs a reason to stay intrigued past 5 seconds. Think of the area above fold as a compelling opportunity to entice, not overwhelm. In most cases, a simple but good, well-thought imagery and a line or two even better copy will hook enough for them to want more.

More importantly, by keeping restraint on what goes above fold, you are letting your most important content breathe.

Also remember that most people browsing the web today understands the purpose of scrolling. Every visitor to your website needs to learn quickly what your website is about, or else you’ll lose them. You will not do any better by crowding the header area – that would only dilute your message. What you want is just the right combination of visual impact and concise information. If they have quickly discovered what your website is about and now interested in the rest of your content, they will scroll to read more.

(photo by Alan)