Matt Cunard, Sr. Digital Marketer
To say that website design has come a long way from the 1990s and early 2000s is an understatement. The last 15 years have produced a cycle of new innovations and design trends, with most falling by the wayside. Today, “modern” design is clean, simple and minimal, with only the necessities available. However, this wasn’t always the case.
Working with as many financial institutions as we have in past five years, we’ve redesigned a lot of websites that were originally designed in the late 1990s and early 2000s, and they all have a few basic things in common.
First, they don’t use the whole width of modern screen sizes to their advantage. Second, and most importantly to the point of this blog post, most are designed using the outdated concept of “above the fold” design.
What is “above the fold” design?
This concept originated from newspaper layouts, with the most important stories placed on the top of the front page. When the newspaper is folded to be delivered, these stories show up above the fold. When this concept was translated to the web, it resulted in websites with narrow designs, a lot of links to content and little to no scrolling.
Why was this a trend for web design?
In the late 90s and early 2000s, web browsers and monitors were smaller, so most websites were designed to 800 x 600 or 1024 x 768 pixel dimensions. And since most internet users weren’t savvy enough to know they could scroll down on a webpage, it was standard to put as much information as possible above the fold in order for it to be read. For banking websites developed during this time, above the fold content included:
- The main navigation
- A small marketing message or main graphic
- The online banking login
- Weather and stock feeds
- A side navigation
- Mortgage rates
- A “useful links” or “resource center” area
- A couple of graphic callouts for products
That’s a lot of stuff to fit in a small area. Where should users go? By prioritizing everything to go above the fold, this design style didn’t prioritize anything. The way today’s users interact with a webpage makes this design concept outdated. It is a standard of the past that shouldn’t be followed for modern banking sites.
Why “above the fold design” is outdated
There is no “fold” in today’s internet. Vastly different screen sizes and resolutions mean today’s websites must respond to the medium on which they are being viewed to offer the best user experience. The huge range of screen resolutions among devices also affects how websites display. While you may have only one website, the way it should display on a desktop versus a smartphone is vastly different.
Mobile use has been the biggest driver behind the disappearance of the fold. On mobile devices, scrolling is the norm, and a higher percentage of the United States population is using a smartphone or tablet to access the internet. According to Statista, 75.1 percent of mobile phone users accessed the internet from their mobile phone in 2015; this number is expected to grow to 85.6 percent by 2018.
Social media platforms are also influencing factors in the scrolling revolution. If you want to see more content on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter or Pinterest, what do you do? Scroll down. As user bases have grown for these social media platforms, scrolling has become more ingrained for the population, particularly the sought-after Millennial demographic.
To fit into the box the fold creates, you will have a website that looks crammed, your content won’t be thorough enough, or both. Looking beyond the fold and focusing on user experience is key to a website that not only looks and functions great on a desktop, but also on screens and devices of any size.
So when you begin the process of redesigning your financial institution’s website, don’t be afraid to open up the design and see what life is like outside of 800 x 600 pixels.