There Will Always Be a Fold
The proverbial “fold” is alive and well and now an opportunity for content choreography within responsive patterns.
The past few years of web development have been transformative. Literally. Responsive web design, browser advances, high-fidelity mobile access across an insane range of devices have all blown up, with extreme prejudice, traditional concepts of “web design”. 1024×768, once our north star for layout, has become the least of our problems.
The trend to embrace the dao of web design has triggered a wave of fold deniers, those who advocate “there is no fold”. This feels good to evangelize. It feels enlightened, next-level. Shed your yolks! Join us in this cerebral statelessness, where it’s like all about the content man.
Except the inconvenient truth that there is a fold.
The web is about information, and a web page is as long as it needs to be to house its content. Which means scrolling. Lots of scrolling. Scrolling on every device on almost every page you’ll ever visit. And if there’s scrolling — by definition — there’s a fold. Something appears first.
This is statistically important. Many folks never scroll (about 10% according to Chartbeat), they don’t read (only 20% of the words, according to NNG), and they sure as shit don’t have the patience to change that (we have an 8-second attention span according to AP).
Responsive web design gives us a technical solution. We can shuffle, collapse, scale, flip and hide content at literally any pixel measurement. That is awesome and magical. But even the raddest dance moves are straight busted without choreography.
The fold remains a content challenge. But instead of designing a 1024×768 painting, we have to design kinetic sculptures.
Designers and content strategists still must prioritize what appears first — but across an insane number of screen depths. When a client says “I want that above the fold”, there’s no reason we can dismiss their screen size as any less legitimate than our own — or the myriad other permutations in the wild.
If we’re not choreographing the entire narrative within a malleable content and design framework, we’re not doing our job. And the fold, despite our best efforts to pretend it magically poofed away in the past few years, remains, more than ever, an opportunity for us to work magic.