The Fold and Email Marketing

Every so often email marketers start to get concerned about ‘the fold’, or it’s equivalent ‘the preview pane’. We look at where the break is, which content will be displayed in the first screen of our campaign, and then start planning our content hierarchy and design around this. Invariably, as a result (and sometimes down to the perceived ‘best practice’) we then start to cram in calls to action, offers, headlines, images, and all sorts of links to things that users don’t care about.

The result is a mess.

I don’t think we should be as worried about the fold. Here’s a few reasons why:

The digital fold is less important

“The Fold” is a term that originates from print, specifically newspapers, where there is an obvious fold; infact newspapers are almost always folded by default. As a result, editors placed their most enticing content in the top half, and advertisers paid top dollar to appear in that space. However, in the digital world, scrolling is much easier and perhaps more natural than unfolding a newspaper – and if users don’t have a problem with scrolling, then the content at the top matters less.

The “Put everything above the fold” mentality is a hang up

As email marketing has grown to take over budget and audience from print DM, marketers have moved to the email channel from print, and never really let go of the ‘above the fold’ mentality. In print there’s a fold, and in email there’s a preview pane, so they’re equal, right? Well, perhaps. But remember that in DM it’s acceptable to use the first leaf as a teaser for the content within, so why in email can’t we do the same?

It’s impossible to act properly upon anyway

With a newspaper, you know where the fold is. It’s half way down the page.
In email, it could be 600px down on a desktop client, 300px down in a webmail client, or 150px down on a mobile device. It could also be half way along the page, if the user has a vertical preview pane. Conversely, I can see almost everything with my massive iMac screen.

Whilst it’s important to make sure your campaigns are engaging, I think we worry too much about getting all of our content in the preview pane area. It’s true that users are often reading several messages in quick succession, and therefore we need to make it easy for them to convert. But often, having a cluttered preview pane area filled up with tonnes of links and offers actually detracts from this.

So what should we do?

I think we’re better off having something really engaging in the preview pane, that grabs the user’s attention and encourages them to read more, scrolling down, and then we can get them to click through, when the time is right.

  • Audrey Howes

    Thanks for giving us a new perspective on the fold. Great thoughts that we will certainly use in our next email design.

  • Tim Watson

    I like the logic, the (invisible) fold is far less critical. Though of course the elements and message at the top of the email should still draw the reader in and further down the email.

  • Jes

    I totally agree with this. My rule (though I don’t do any kind of email advertising at all- I’m just really referring to web pages) is to just get the most important information out above the fold, preferably in a really engaging way. If it cuts off midway through something, if it doesn’t give enough information for users on the smallest screens, if the real meat and potatoes are below the fold- not a huge deal. 

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