Above the fold – two emails in one

You may have heard the phrase above the fold in more than one context, in this context, I am talking about the section of the email that is visible when the email is first opened;

In Outlook, Thunderbird and Gmail for instance, this is the preview pane (if you have it enabled); on all other inboxes, without a preview pane it is simply the content that is first visible. This will be different for each inbox and the top of the email will be positioned at different places on the screen, e.g. Outlook’s will probably be nearer the middle, whereas Hotmail will be higher on the screen. So that bit of the email is the bit above the fold.

Think two emails

When someone gets an email there are 2 initial touch points: the inbox view where they see the ‘from name’ and the ‘subject line’ (plus the inbox snippet preview on the iPhone and Gmail etc.), then the email itself when they open the email.

They then have to decide what to do depending on their impression of the content in front of them and their opinion/rapport with the sending brand.

This means that the rest of the email ‘below the fold’ is not visible at all at this point and one of the decisions the recipient has to make is whether or not to scroll down.

Other decisions include: load the images, view in a browser, click through etc.

Once someone has gone as far as scrolling down the email, you should be able to fairly safely assume that the images are already loaded so there would be fewer barriers to engagement with the content at that point.

Subsequently the content segment that is visible to the recipient upon opening could, or should, be looked at differently to the rest of the email or, more importantly, more than the email as a whole.

So remember, content above the fold needs to achieve the initial engagement, based on the goal of the email.

  • If the goal is to do one thing, the content above the fold should hold at least one call to action
  • If images are present and especially if an image plays a particularly important part in the conversion, get the images loaded or the browser view link clicked
  • If the email is fairly long, content above the fold would also be responsible to getting the scroll, so it should tease towards content further down the email as well
  • To ease future engagement, why not ask for images to be always loaded?

Once the engagement is achieved, you have far more of a free rein over your content and you can then take the recipient down the path you make for them.