You've probably heard the expressions "above the fold" and "below the fold." But what exactly is the fold? And why is it important for web designers?
The term "the fold" is an old one that predates computers. It originally referred to the fold in a broadsheet newspapers. Because the newspapers were folded, potential customers could only see the top part of it in vending machines and on newsstands. So this top part or "above the fold" needed to draw customers in, or they would never see what was "below the fold."
In modern web design, the fold refers to the bottom of a user's screen. Any information they see is "above the fold," and any information that they need to scroll to see is "below the fold."
Like with newspapers from days of old, it's important for web designers to draw users in with what's "above the fold," or they're likely never scroll down to see what's below it. In fact, if you don't engage them right away, they'll most likely just move on to another site.
Though designing for the fold is more than just about engaging users with content that will want them to read more. It is also important for user experience, especially in web apps.
How many times have you been at a logon screen of one kind or another, where after you enter your credentials and click on the connection button, you discover you still can't log on? You can't because some necessary action like accepting the site's terms and conditions were not visible. How frustrating did you find this? Probably a lot. It probably adversely affected your opinion of the whole site.
So, it's important to include any functionally necessary information above the fold in your web designs, for both desktop and mobile versions of your web application. Your customers will appreciate it and will be far more likely to come back.
As you can see, designing for the fold is even more important today than it was in the era of newspapers. It's no longer just about engagement anymore.