49

Why is the place where the visible screen (on load) ends called the Fold? I have a hard time even writing out the definition for it, but when someone says The Fold, I know exactly what they mean.

Why is it called the fold, or above the fold?

Is the term appropriate to use when working with non-developers?

  • 46
    With this question, I am an old man. – dotancohen Oct 17 '14 at 8:26
  • 3
    The fold isn't in the same place for every user though, it depends on the size of their window, right? – Michael Oct 17 '14 at 21:13
  • @Michael: Generally, a web site should be designed so that most users will be able to see enough without scrolling to know that the balance of the page is likely to be of interest, and so that uses who want to use common navigation links will not have to scroll to find them. It doesn't matter if many users get to see a lot of information beyond the bare minimum; what's important is that even users with small-but-not-unusually-small screens don't have to scroll excessively. – supercat Oct 19 '14 at 21:10
  • 3
    It should also be noted that 'the fold'--as being an issue on the web--is a myth: boxesandarrows.com/blasting-the-myth-of-the-fold cxpartners.co.uk/cxblog/… uxmyths.com/post/654047943/myth-people-dont-scroll – DA01 Oct 20 '14 at 1:30
  • So, in other words, it's not a relative term at all for UX on the web. – DA01 Oct 20 '14 at 1:31
81

It's from print newspapers; back in the day when broadsheets were more common, they were usually presented folded in half vertically, so the most important part of the front page was the portion "above the fold", which is the first thing most people see when they see the newspaper. Analogously, this is the first part of the website you see when a page loads, before the user unfolds the newspaper or scrolls down.

With non-developers, it depends on their experience with jargon. Designers would generally understand what you mean, but the average layperson might not, since there's no clear foldable portion of a website or a screen.

  • 2
    Indeed, the average lay person might not already know this jargon, but it is an appropriate term to use with them. You simply need to explain it first. Fortunately, the metaphor is simple enough that most people will get it straight away. – Dominic Cronin Oct 16 '14 at 18:33
  • 1
    Please site sources. FineDictionary.com's Idioms for Above corroborates this etymology: "Above the fold - If a news story is important, it will be above the fold- in the top half of the page of a newspaper." – Graham Herrli Oct 16 '14 at 19:11
  • 6
    @3nafish: Sorry, I'm not super familiar with the rules still... I answered out of my personal general knowledge, is it expected that I should normally back that up with external sources also? – rach oune Oct 16 '14 at 19:30
  • 6
    It has nothing to do with delivery. When delivered, newspapers were/are usually rolled up. Newspaper vending machines (news racks) displayed folded newspapers. The portion above the fold was very important to get people interested in buying the paper from the vending machine. Photo: en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Newspaper_vending_machine#mediaviewer/… – Stephen Ostermiller Oct 16 '14 at 22:17
  • 1
    @StephenOstermiller: Sorry, you're absolutely right. I should have said "presented". I'll edit my answer to reflect that. Newspapers in my neighbourhood are usually delivered folded but I shouldn't have assumed that's standard across areas. – rach oune Oct 16 '14 at 23:00
55

It comes from newspapers which are folded in half. Above the fold refers to content that is visible without unfolding or turning the newspaper over to see the 2nd half. This term was adapted to websites and their content that is visible without scrolling.

Here is a picture of a newspaper. enter image description here Everything you can see is above the fold.

14

The history of the term "Above the fold" comes from newspapers where the articles at the top were most visible when the newspaper was folded. To quote this Wikipedia article

Above the fold is the upper half of the front page of a newspaper where an important news story or photograph is often located. Papers are often displayed to customers folded so that only the top half of the front page is visible. Thus, an item that is "above the fold" may be one that the editors feel will entice people to buy the paper. Alternatively, it reflects a decision, on the part of the editors, that the article is one of the day's most important. By extension, the space above the fold is also preferred by advertisers, since it is the most prominent and visible even when the newspaper is on stands.

With regards to developers, while most developers I work with understand the above the fold term, if users or stakeholders dont understand, I explain it as the content that is visible when you first load a page and what you can see without scrolling.

enter image description here

However do note, above the fold is a relative term as it depends upon the resolution and the form factor of the device used to view the content.

I also recommend reading this witty article about the fold

  • 3
    A site should use what's above the fold to convince a reader that there's something good below the fold. To use the newspaper analogy, if nothing above the fold was of interest, nobody would read the paper; if everything of interest was above the fold, many people would read the paper, but nobody would buy it. Once people are drawn to a page, they'll proceed further, but if the page doesn't draw their attention quickly they're likely to leave and never return unless they've been told elsewhere what to expect. – supercat Oct 18 '14 at 4:07

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.