The Fold: A misinterpretation

Language is full of misinterpretation and meaning, in essence language over time is a giant game of ‘Chinese whispers‘. This can create confusion very easily. Wars have been fought, lives have been lost and arguments have started because of misinterpretation.

Without a solid foundation for passing on knowledge or a standardisation of a specific subject it is far too easy to interpret something in a misleading fashion. For a person in a learning role, being misled is the same as being educated, it is only the outcome which is different. An educator, no matter how skilled or unskilled is however in the position to pass on information in any way they intend.

Passing information in short instead of giving background to the subject can lead to the knowledge being widely distributed and being left to an open interpretation. This happens and has happened time and time again in the web world.

The Fold

“The Fold”, “Above the Fold” or “Above the crease” were names given by the design industry, specifically the print design industry to describe the top-half of a newspaper. The name was given as newspapers once printed were folded and bundled together and distributed to their drop off points, with the most important news on the top half of the page facing upwards towards their potential buyer.

Unfortunately the term extended in to the web industry and was referred to as the portion of a website visible before you needed to scroll. It’s unfortunate as it was then decided by someone that ‘the fold’ was something we had to adhere to when we came to designing for the web. If we did this, it would be like content or link stuffing. We could end up just forcing every last piece of so called vital information in to the header of the website.

The Misinterpretation

I’m not denying ‘the fold’ exists, but it belongs in a different industry on an entirely separate medium. We’ve had scrolling on computers for as long as I can remember. It’s in our nature to scroll and has been proven many times in testing. The misinterpretation came from people jumping on a bandwagon, or following a thought trend as I like to call them. If we’d tested the amount of people scrolling before it caught on, maybe we’d be in a better position now to right our wrongs.

It’s an industry problem, we let it happen and it’s up to us to put things right. Instead of letting thought trends to happen we should be willing to question why and provide reasons and answers behind a new argument or discussion. It’s all about language, interpretation and most of all communication between the industry as a whole.

This short article was instigated by opinion and talks from @naconf.

Published by


Head of Interaction and Service Design at DigitalDWP.

4 thoughts on “The Fold: A misinterpretation”

  1. When I started out in this industry, a 15″ monitor was considered large, and the term ‘Above the Fold’ actual did mean something way back then.

    Yes we all ‘scrolled’, but the term was more widely used for delivering important information above the fold as you will probable know. The term was widely used way back then.

    As time has moved on, and to have the wide variation of screen sizes etc, above the fold has become less and less of important design consideration. Yes, we all know how to deliver information in the correct manner, but not necessarily ‘Above the fold’.

    I can’t actually remember the last time I heard the term used!

    Great little article.

  2. Fold placement is indeterminable physically due to the range of kits people will view on thus… information hierarchy and thus layout is important (

    Oh – and account managers S’ingTFU about it. Manage the account, not the fine details. (rant over)

  3. It’s interesting that when I hear people (mostly clients) refer to including stuff ‘above the fold’, I wonder how they don’t themselves realise that there could never actually ‘be’ a fold.

    I might suggest that the idea that screens ‘display content the same’ (which must be someones train of thought when they believe there is a fold) is probably perpetuated by people’s understanding of televisions – no matter what screen size, everyone’s viewing the same thing.

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