‘Above the Fold’ May Show Your Age not Your Web Savvy

Ever use the term ‘Above the Fold’ to describe the placement of content in a Web browser? I don’t mean to insult you and I get what you are saying. It’s not even the description that drives me crazy, though I can just imagine that folks fresh out of college might actually have to be told what the reference is.

Here is my issue with the ‘above the fold’ direction… Where is the fold, on what device, at what resolution? Sure you can design a site so that your most important piece of content is visible without scrolling on any device (think responsive design) but I often get this direction from an individual looking at a single environment. The common scenario is when a client sees how their site looks on a different computer for the first time, often an older computer with a lower resolution than what they are used to. So the developer gets contacted with the simple instruction that the site needs to be fixed so that the important content is ‘above the fold’ for all users.

With older sites and without budget to develop a new template/theme often people start to resize page elements, fonts, etc. to pull content up ‘above the fold’ in the offending screen/resolution. The catch here is that on screens with larger resolutions, everything will now be displayed smaller and/or content will not fall where it used to. This can start a nasty cycle of going round and round as you try and find the perfect balance of content and user experience. Not to mention clients will get a crash course in computer screen resolutions that they never intended to to receive.

What to Do About It

I don’t have a magic bullet for this one. It really comes down to planning your site. Make sure that a mobile content strategy is part of your build process and that you test your responsive/mobile designs across popular screen resolutions and devices. If you’re making quick cost effective changes to a standing site, understand that you will probably not be able to create the same experience in every screen and that you’ll have to compromise.