When To Use Infinite Scrolling And When To Avoid It
We have seen infinite scrolling a lot since it was implemented for the first time and, as well as with other web design trends, it was used excessively. People say that by using infinite scrolling you are creating a better user experience, because there is more content loaded when the user has browsed (not read) the current one.
The trigger for anyone to use it like they are batshit crazy is for a big site to implement it. I don’t even know who it used it for the first time, but I’ll say that Twitter was one of the first pioneers of this trend. Now, don’t get me wrong, it worked really great for Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest or several others to implement this, but for almost the rest of the websites who use it just for the sake of using it, it didn’t.
It is a common technique to use instead of pagination, but there are a lot of people who are using it wrong. To use it properly, you will have to make sure that your content can be browsed easily and with a purpose by the visitors. On mobile devices, the usage of infinite scrolling is necessary to improve user experience, but on a desktop computer or a laptop, that is not necessarily the case.
Why would you use it
Even if it is hated by a lot of web designers, infinite scrolling works quite fine on certain types of sites, but until a certain point and mostly on mobile.
- Use this technique if your content is represented by images and if the visitor isn’t looking for something specific. Otherwise, if you implement this on an ecommerce platform, like Etsy did, you will end up having horrible results and low CTR. Yes, low CTR if you can believe it because the user is distracted by everything and ends up clicking less items than what he would usually click.
- It is often used on sites with lots of user generated content because on these sites, the owners try to avoid consuming loads and loads of data just for the user to see a new photo that is posted on the site. This way there are fewer requests and the servers are handling massive amount of users.
- Mashable implemented this technique on its homepage and also on the article pages to load recent or related articles. Although, I would like to say it is horrible, it isn’t. They managed to make this quite useful. Apart from the fact that they are increasing their pageviews per user, they are also making the ads more visible to the public. Most of the times, after visitors go beyond the fold where most ads are, they don’t return to the top and don’t notice them.
Why it should be avoided
People like the idea that they are controlling the information and they want to know where it ends so they can make better decisions regarding the content and what they were looking for. An infinite scrolling site may give them the sensation that they are floating and can’t reach anything.
- One of the biggest problems with this technique is missing the possibility to return to the same position where you where before clicking a link on the page. Many people don’t open links in new tabs and that can be really bad for ecommerce sites, because after viewing a product, the visitors will want to return to their previous position to see other products in the list.
- You are using a lot of browser memory. This is a big problem for a lot of people and you will end up having an experience which is similar to when you had a dial-up connection. It gets worse if you are used to having more than 5 tabs always open in your browser and one of them is a site with infinite scrolling.
- What I absolutely hate is the scrollbar on an infinite scrolling site. It gets so small and unreachable once you scroll long enough and if you want to use it, you will have to almost squeeze your eyes to see it.
- Having a footer is necessary. People are used to look in the footer of the website to find more information. Adding to it or to the menu an absolute position would fix a lot of problems and will help you not to lose visitors.
The infinite scrolling experience can be improved. Infinite scrolling is not a basket case and it can be tweaked with certain techniques to improve the user experience and the overall usability of the site.
The load more button and pagination
Instead of infinite scrolling, you could use a load more button to load more content only if the user demands it. You won’t solve anything by throwing at the user content that he didn’t specifically ask for. This is not the best solution and many condemn the usage of the load more button, as much as the infinite scrolling technique.
Using the load button is better, but there is a problem here that is really annoying. What do you do if you want to see the end of a list, or the last 10 items that are on it? You can’t do that with infinite scrolling because you would have to load an incredible amount of data which, most likely, your browser can’t support.
Also if you consider using a load more button, why not use pagination instead? I don’t know how others are, but I like to click on pages to see content, not scroll till the bottom of the internet.
Other sites that use infinite scrolling