The format of infinite scrolling I find for the majority of websites to be nothing less than annoying.
It’s as equally as user disruptive as those top ten list website that aggressivly implement pagination as a content barrier; requiring a visitor to click from numbered item to numbered item with the goal to increase page views for advertisement purposes; instead of just simply listing out the “top 10 most expensive cities in the United States” or whatever the topic may be.
So let’s (not) get to the bottom of this.
YOU WILL LEARN TODAY:
The advantages of using infinite scrolling for your blog or online store, how it may help your end user navigate their way around your website as well as making the ocean of content that websites eventually become much more managble.
We will well also take note of some serious barriers that should be taken into consideration and how to track the success or failure of infinite scroll on your website should you decide to give it a go.
WHAT IS “INFINITE SCROLL”?
Full name: Infinite scroll
Known nicknames: autopagerize, unpaginate, endless pages, lazy loading, endless scrolling, autopager.
Super power: It allows a user on a website to load via AJAX the subsequent content on a website instead of using pagination. This pre-fetching allows a user to scroll and browse until they find a content item of interest without having to click any “next page” button.
Pagination on the other hand, (that page 1 of 24 for example you see on select websites) has been shown to be a content barrier because users tend to view the first page of a website ONLY for the solution to their problem.
If this first page lacks an answer…well, then you run into a big problem of retaining users.
Which is why only 6% of Google searches have people moving onto page 2 and beyond.
YOUR WEBSITE SHOULD ALWAYS BE ABOUT BUILDING PATHWAYS
Users WILL click and will scroll if you lead them correctly but with blogs and perhaps even online stores, if they don’t find an answer on page 1, they tend to discount the entire website as to being unable of providing a subsequent and adequate solution to their search.
Essentially, you’re not building a pathway with pagination on blogs. Though that in part is what it is partially intended to do (that, and to organize a lot of content as well as to reduce the load times for websites with a tremendous amount of content).
The blog here and on most websites uses pagination and excerpts of published content instead of full content and no pagination. Full content and no pagination would result in a ridiculously long page page with over 100 items to click on and a length exceeding tens of thousands of pixels vertically.
Without excepts and pagination the blog page load time would be unacceptable slow, making the usability of the page inefficient as most users would scan through the first few items anyways and would ignore the pre-fectched content at the bottom of the page.
Which is the main advantage for trying out infinite scroll on your blog, store or business website. it retains users more efficiently than pagination as well as making your content more manageable and easy to discover.
Infinite scrolling is wonderful for mobile platforms and for retaining users. Specifically, keeping people on your website clicking and reading. Which can result in converting them into a fan and subscriber which can lead to a sale down the road.
People will continue on our website longer with infinite scroll as opposed to pagination because there are zero barriers for the end user to using infinite scroll. They literally have to do nothing other than perform their regular browsing activities with no additional instruction for how to use infinite scroll.
It also does not interfere with someone regular reading habits.
In short, users have to do nothing to take advantage of infinite scroll which in and of itself is a big plus.
Social media is also another beneficiary of infinite scroll and is one of the most common implementors of infinite scroll. So much so that a social media website without infinite scroll looks a bit off. User generated content and multi-author blogs and news websites by their nature should use infinite scroll for one very good reason that Yogev Ahuvia points out:
Websites with lots of user-generated content today are using infinite scrolling to handle content that is being generated every second. By unspoken agreement, users are aware that they won’t get to seeeverything on these websites, because the content is updated too frequently. With infinite scrolling, social websites are doing their best to expose as much information as possible to the user. Yogev Ahuvia: Let’s Get to The Bottom of This
It either works very well on websites or it’s a total mess.
Here are the weaknesses:
1) The “footer” of the page will be impossible to reach, at least on the page where their is infinite scroll in play. Take this into consideration for your blog or online store if it’s important that the user be able to find the footer on your website. For most websites, the footer is where miscellaneous information goes so it’s not that important.
It’s more about giving the user a sense of control. This is only important when they are looking for something specific.
2) There is no permalink to a given to the position of the page making it difficult to navigate when you scroll deep as opposed to a more logical structure like website.com/category/page-2.
3) There is no way to cancel this behavior or opt out.
4) As anyone knows who’s done a bit of Facebook stalking, as you scroll down though “photos of _____” there is an infinite scroll at play. The more you scroll, the more pictures load, the slower your browser become and harder your machine has to work.
This is a result of increasing the memory footprint of your browser because you’re dynamically adding more content to a page.
5) Infinite scroll can break the back button. Etsy.com tried out infinite scroll for it’s search function and it failed. Not from a technical standpoint, but simply it had a negative effect on the way people used the website. Decreasing user engagement overall.
There are plenty of reasons for this, but the one that always comes to mind when I use a website that has infinite scroll is that it breaks the back button. I click a product item, decide it’s not for me. Click back, and instead of returning to where I was on the infinite scroll page, I’m simple brought back to the top of the page. That is a failure of good design because it’s making your website more difficult for me to use.
EXAMPLES/WHEN TO USE
Twitter is a picture perfect example of infinite scrolling at it’s best. As Yogev mentioned, users don’t expect to ready everything and a users behavior on such a website is to linearly consume an endless flow of data with no specific goal in mind other than to consume and feel up to date.
For most websites, this is not the case.
Pintrest: Their layout was fresh and innovative at first. But time has not faired well:
If there’s anything that the last couple years of web have taught us, it’s that less is definitely more. Despite this, the main thing that the Pinterest layout accomplishes is cramming as much content as possible onto a single page, which has presumably been justified by a statement like, “the more we show them, the more likely they are to find something they like.” For some reason, our first instinct is to accept that this makes perfect sense. But when has it ever made sense in practice? Almost never. Stephen Corwin: Why Pinterest-style infinite-scroll layouts are worthless for everyone except Pinterest
Pintrest is overwhelming, but I do disagree with Stephen Corwin a bit. Websites that have user generated content where visitors are not searching for something specific do benefit from infinite scroll. Pintrest, Google Image search and Unsplash.com (my favorite resource for stock photos) all use never ending scrolling to great effect.
But this point brings out something else.
These are all image based websites, where you’re not searching for something specific. This is not always ideal for blogs though there are quite a few exceptions of how to retain organization, still give the end user the feel of user control and also make your website more “sticky”.
So does infinite scroll work for blogs?
Check out http://www.entrepreneurs-journey.com/
A blog that uses infinite scroll by way of integrating the rebel mouse platform on the home page. However, unlike an image website or social media website using infinite scroll, this website still organizes the latest published content by date and by category specific content.
This is the way to go if you’re considering implementing infinite scroll on a blog. That is, you still need your latest content organized cronologically as that is what visitors still expect, but then leverage infinite scroll to help people quickly explore more deeply into your content beyond simple sidebar content like “top 10 most popular” or “currently trending”.
Infinite scroll on websites other than social media with a lot of user generated content or a website that users images in a pinboard style layout don’t make much sense. For stores, users are searching for something specific, and because of Google they know the first page is usually the “best” results. Infinite scroll takes this away.
Unless a user is on a mobile platform however, infinite scroll offers too many barriers for it to be more effective than pagination.
Perhaps a hybrid is in order?
I love infinite scroll website that offer a simple and elegant “click to load more” button. Perhaps that is the middle ground we are all looking for. I would still however be conscious of breaking the back button.
What do you think?
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