A lot of us are familiar with this term which originated out of time when newspapers were the primary consumption of articles and content. We referred to the fold in a newspaper that showed one half of the page to the reader, but not the other.
The term originated in the late 90’s when computers and the web were something new (...and slow - remember dial up?). Scrolling took effort and users were still somewhat used to reading things on paper.
For those that are not familiar with the concept of the fold, here’s a definition:
Above the fold is also used in website design (along with "above the scroll") to refer to the portion of the webpage that is visible without scrolling.
As screen sizes vary drastically, there is no set definition for the number of pixels that define the fold. This is because different screen resolutions will show different portions of the website without scrolling. Further complicating matters, many websites adjust their layout based on the size of the browser window, such that the fold is not a static feature of the page.In more recent years, user testing has shown that participants almost always scroll, regardless of how they are cued to do so (but they need to be cued to do so).
Changing behaviour of users can be largely attributed to the increased usage of mobile devices as smartphone users scroll down almost instantaneous . With the smaller screen size of the devices, users expect a web page to provide more information below the fold.
“66% of attention on a normal media page is spent below the fold” — Chartbeat.
The fold isn't a thing anymore.
According to more recent user behaviour, starting and stopping scrolling is now a thing with users. We need to give users a reason to start and then stop scrolling, preferably stopping on something achieving the objective of the website (eg something being sold)
Large text, engaging bright images, and plenty of white space prompt users to slow down, stop their scrolling - a trick to use is to blur your eyes by squeezing them shut and checking if the feeling of stopping scrolling is achieved.
Takeaways for taking into account user scroll and fold behaviour
Encourage scrolling by giving users a reason to scroll through a USP which tantalises but doesn’t give all the information
Encourage users to stop scrolling through enticing content that can be seen during a scrolling session
Ensure that your content is top-notch - humans have become experts at skimming content and they’ll pick up within seconds whether something is engaging and authentic