With new developments in screen sizes and devices, the fold has become practically outdated. In web design, the “fold” is known as the imaginary line on a screen that designates what content is visible to a viewer without scrolling. If you’re curious, the term, “fold” originated from the traditional newspaper, where the most important content and images were printed above the paper fold. This rule helped gain maximum attention from the reader and made sure essential information was always visible. The same goes for web design, you want to make sure a viewer has visual access to the key info on your site within the first five seconds of reaching the page.
For years, web designers could mostly rely on the fact that a visitor would have a screen resolution between 1024×768 or 1280×700, and web sites could be created accordingly. There have been debates on where the traditional fold fell on these screen resoutions, but in general, the rule has been, don’t put any essential information below 600 pixels. Today, this is not always the case. Viewers now have access to a variety of screens, from iPhones, to giant TV’s, and it’s getting more and more difficult to establish the ‘fold’ line on a specific device. You can’t possibly design for all outcomes, and so the “fold” is starting to become irrelevant. To add to the mayhem, users today also aren’t afraid of scrolling either, and devices like the iPhone, make this intuitive and essential to view important information. With this new openness to scroll, these invisible boundaries seem somewhat unnecessary.
Even though we are moving into an entire new use of space, it doesn’t mean we should totally ignore the idea of the fold. The most important messages should remain near the top. We still need to respect the importance of the initial visual hit a viewer gets when they reach a site. It’s a powerful tool and and can help to capture the attention of the audience and perhaps even keep them scrolling on down the page.