in Design

Is Infinite Scrolling A Good Solution?

Infinite Scrolling

It’s quite unlikely, given the current trends in matters of web design out there, that you have yet to come across at least one site that provides infinite scrolling. They’re fairly easy to detect as they’re the ones on which you go down and down and down and yet never seem to reach bottom, unless you’re internet connection suddenly decides to crash. Infinite scrolling sounds like an interesting concept, but how can you tell if such a feature is the right choice for your site?

Well, basically, by drawing up the pros and cons of infinite scrolling and deciding which one outweighs the other.

If you’re a user of any social media site, from Facebook or Twitter to Pintrest or Tumblr, you have definitely seen how successful their choices of infinite scroll have been and while no one is saying that you have to be a multi-billion company with tens of front end developers at your offices to make it work…it does help.

But not for the reasons that most people think. In the end, infinite scroll works for these media sites not because they pay people to make it work, but because they have people, meaning users, that make it work. By logging in to each of their accounts and having the smallest recordable activity, users provide these companies with the resources needed to make an infinite scroll truly successful.

So, let’s see what pros and cons can be summed up for infinite scroll.

Pro

pagination vs infinite scrolling

1. Useful with Touch. Nowadays smartphones can do more than what some full fledged computers could do only three years ago. The increase in the number of users that access websites from handhelds that use touchscreen technology cannot be denied. Therefore, you have to think about how to make their navigation in your site as easy as possible, without hindering the functionality you provide for desktops. It’s clear that infinite scroll has a huge advantage here, because it’s a breeze to use on the small screen of a phone or tab and it runs smoothly on a regular computer as well.

2. Content exposure. All website owners are concerned about the easiest and most straightforward way to get their message across to users. You want to give them the biggest amount of information in the most convenient way for them, in order to be assured that they’ll keep coming back to your website. By using infinite scroll, you’re assured that your content will always be displayed continuously and users won’t have to wait to navigating to the next pages.

3. Facilitate browsing. From a technical standpoint, pages using infinite scroll run faster and smoother that regular format pages. This is because the user only navigates in a single page, as opposed to clicking on links and navigating from one page to another, all of which have to be requested by, sent to and loaded in the browser. The amount of time that is saved by eliminating these actions is in everyone’s best interest.

4. Picture perfect. Think about how much easier and enjoyable it is to navigate on a website that has beautiful images when they roll on with minimum effort on your part. Infinite scroll provides you with a way to offer this to the people who visit your site. By using infinite scroll, they will be able to concentrate on the pictures you want them to see as opposed to dividing their attention between the message and the finding of the link to the next image they’re interested in.

5. Think outside the box. Even though it’s becoming a rather wide-spread trend, infinite scrolling still retains its air of freshness. It is an innovative way to offer information to users and it leaves quite a lot of room for the creative mind to think outside the box and make their content fun and memorable.

Alquimia WRG

Infinite scrolling website

The Royal British Legion

Infinite scrolling design

Flat design vs Realism

website with infinite scrolling effect

Sony

Example of web design with infinite scrolling

Highway One

Infinite scrolling website

Make Your Money Matter

6

The Lab

7

Atlantis World’s Fair

infinite scrolling website

Every last drop

9. Every last drop

The Jacksonville Downtown Art Walk

infinite scrolling

Con

It’s rather clear that infinite scrolling has quite it’s share of advantages when it comes to the way information is displayed and messages are delivered to users. It’s undeniable that it is very attractive. But, like every trend out there, it also has it’s shortcomings.

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1. Bottom of the page. The biggest problem with something that’s infinite? Obviously, you can never reach its end. This is a rather big issue for websites that are accustomed to providing their users with useful information in the page footer (like contact phone numbers, shipping details or a navigation to a page with a map to the business’s physical location). In this instance, the user is in the rather unpleasant situation of having to chase down the links their interested in before the page can finish loading new information and booting the footer out of sight.

2. Faulty site navigation. It’s common sense to want to be able to always know exactly where you are while navigating a website. Using this information you can always know where you came from and where you could potentially go next. Unfortunately, if infinite scrolling is employed, it’s pretty hard, if not actually impossible, to pinpoint your accurate location in the site’s hierarchy at any given time. It’s even worse when the infinite scroll is set up so as not to remember where you left off when you navigated to a detail (like seeing an image in a pop-up) and upon return sends you back to the top of the page. I, for one, wouldn’t revisit a website that does that.

3. You view everything. With infinite scrolling there’s no way to skip any of the content that is displayed. You can’t just decide you want to see something that is further down, because you have no way of knowing how much further down there actually is.

4. Application crashes. Theoretically, infinite scrolling shouldn’t be the source of any browser crash, but it sometimes happens. Whether because of a faulty internet connection or because of an older computer with limited memory where content can be loaded a crash can happen and it’s not pleasant.

5. Lack of proper orientation. Again, we’re talking about something that is infinite and therefore cannot be linked to something in our everyday lives, because everything we experience in the real world comes to an end sooner or later. Users can feel disoriented when they keep scrolling down the page without any sense of finality and it can be quite irking when you’re looking for a particular something and you’re unable to find an appropriate way of placing it. And, to add insult to injury, the scroll bar on the left or right of the page can be completely misleading because you can see it’s approaching the end, yet it never seems to quite reach it.

6. Too much information. Yes, it’s very good that infinite scrolling provides website owners with a means to get as much information to users as possible, but there is such a thing as too much information. Imagine scrolling down and down and down and down and it never ends and you feel the need for it to end, because it feels natural to you for something to end, but it just goes on and on and on. It becomes tiresome and it can bore users.

To sum up

In conclusion, like every other technology or trend out there, infinite scrolling is not without its share of goods and bads. If used properly and where it can provide the most benefits with a minimum amount of drawbacks, infinite scrolling can be a fantastic idea for your website. If your website has a lot of new and fresh information to display on a regular basis you will surely be able to use infinite scrolling almost to its maximum potential.

However, if your website deals with ecommerce, it would probably be best if you’d stick with a more traditional approach that will allow users to get their bearings easier and provide them with a more stable template to view on your site. In the end, it’s really up to you if you choose to implement infinite scrolling on your website or not. Still, in your decision making process you should not forget to take into account all the ways in which your site could benefit by the proper use of infinite scroll and you should take great care to avoid some of the more annoying issues derived from such a feature.

Bogdan

Bogdan is the founder of Top Design Magazine. You can find him in Bucharest-Romania so next time you want to drink a beer there and talk about web and stuff, give him a message.

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