3 Reasons Why "Above the Fold" Isn't Ideal for Online Content

There are two basic types of newspaper format: tabloid and broadsheet. Audiences want tabloids that are full of easy-to-read sensationalistic headlines about celebrity gossip and outrageous stories about "bat boys".

Broadsheet newspapers are a little more serious. Meant to be seen from newspaper vending machines, shop windows and children in hats yelling "Extra! Extra!" on the cobblestone streets of London, everything "above the fold" on the cover should be eye-catching. That means a bold headline for your primary articles, a flashy picture and the newspaper's masthead.

I hear "above the fold" mentioned in conversations about websites all the time as content that appears when you first arrive at a website before scrolling or clicking anywhere else. Here are a few reasons why we should think about putting the term to bed.

1. Print is (pretty much) dead

But now in the year 2014, "above the fold" is an antiquated term. We can argue all day about whether or not print is dead but the truth is the industry's numbers are way down.

The best example of that is Newsweek, once the second-largest news magazine in the US, ended its 79 year-old print publication on December 31, 2012 in favor of publishing exclusively online.

Admittedly, I still pick up a free daily newspaper every now and again if only to do the daily crossword. If I want to check the news, movie times or "who wore it best" during awards season, I check the internet.

2. Responsive web design is very much alive

Looking at a single website from one computer to the other looks completely different. What might be the "fold" on one might be three screens before the "fold" on another. The amount of information that's displayed on my 27" screen is way more than can fit onto the screen of my tiny 13" office laptop.

Gone are the days of fixed widths and Geocities — today, designers have to keep in mind that websites are seen on many screen sizes and browsers.

Make sure to work with your web designer to create a hierarchy of important information. On a basic corporate homepage, your company's name/logo should always be first, followed by a tagline and a quick way to find your contact info.

That's only the beginning though, you also have to remember that your audience will see website on many different devices.

3. There are so many different folds now

Putting aside desktops, laptops and their seemingly infinite combination of screen sizes, resolutions and browsers, you have to start thinking about other devices that your content might be accessed on. There are hundreds of different tablets and mobile phones out there just waiting to make your website look weird.

Tailoring the architecture for each of these gadgets would be impossible, before even thinking about what should appear "above the fold".

So the problem isn't that "above the fold" is antiquated terminology, it's that there are so many different folds that it's impossible to keep up with them. But as long as you make sure to prioritize the key components to your website, you should have no problem keeping your head above the fold.

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