How best to present the pictures, information, and data on your website is a huge topic that involves far more than the scope of this article but one area that you must address is whether you want your website visitors to scroll through your information or click through it.
One-page websites are a major design trend, especially when it comes to one-page designs packed with content. This is all thanks to infinite scrolling techniques that allow designers to continue a webpage indefinitely.
This technique is great for some websites and content types, while for others it can be cumbersome and frustrating. Like any other design technique, you shouldn’t do it just because you want to try something new; it should be a strategic part of your design framework.
Infinite scrolling is a technique that allows users to scroll through a massive chunk of content with no finish line in sight. This technique simply keeps refreshing a page when you scroll down it. Popular websites that use this technique include:
Twitter integrates infinite scrolling effectively. Its feed fits the criteria: a large amount of data (tweets) and a real-time platform. From the perspective of the user, all tweets are equally relevant, meaning that they have the same potential to be interesting or uninteresting; so, users will often scroll through all of the tweets in their feed.
Being a real-time platform, Twitter is constantly being updated, even if the user leaves their feed unattended. Infinite scrolling seems to have been created especially for websites like Twitter, which successfully employs the technology.
It’s Great for Discovery
When you use scrolling as the main method for your users to explore the website, it may make the user stay longer on your web page. With the popularity of social media, massive amounts of data are being consumed and infinite scrolling offers an efficient way to browse that ocean of information without extra clicks.
Infinite scrolling is almost a must-have feature for discovery interfaces. When the user does not search for something specific, they need to see a large number of items to find the one thing they like. It’s like strolling through the park aimlessly versus searching for the lions at the zoo.
It’s Great For Mobile Devices
The world is becoming more mobile. More than half of web traffic is coming from mobile devices. And smaller screens work better with scrolling than clicking.
The gesture controls of mobile devices make scrolling intuitive and easy to use. As a result, the users enjoy a truly responsive experience with whatever device they’re using.
It’s Poor for Page Performance
Page loading speed is everything for a good user experience. Multiple researchers have shown that slow load times result in people leaving your site or deleting your app. And that’s bad news for those that use infinite scrolling. The more users scroll down a page, the more content has to load on the same page. As a result, the page performance will increasingly slow down.
Another problem is limited resources of the user’s device. On many infinite scrolling sites, especially those with many images, devices with limited resources (such as mobile devices or tablets with dated hardware) can start slowing down because of the sheer number of assets it has loaded.
It’s Poor for Item Search and Location
Another issue with infinite scrolling is that when users get to a certain point in the stream, they can’t bookmark their location and come back to it later. If they leave the site, they’ll lose all their progress and will have to scroll down again to get back to the same spot. This inability to determine the scrolling position of the user not only causes annoyance or confusion but also hurts the overall user experience, as a result.
There is the Lack of a Footer Issue
Footers exist for a reason: they contain content that the user sometimes needs. If users can’t find something or they want to navigate to another page, they often go there. But because the feed scrolls infinitely, more data gets loaded as soon as the user reaches the bottom, pushing the footer out of view every time.
Sites that implement infinite scrolling should either make the footer accessible by making it sticky or relocating the links to a top or side bar.
There is a Loss of Control
Infinite scrolling leaves you with the feeling that you might be missing out on information. You continue scrolling because the results are right there, but you feel overwhelmed because you’re losing control over the amount of data being shown.
There is something nice about defined pages on which the amount of content is quantified, where you can comfortably choose whether to click to view more or to stop. With infinite scrolling, you don’t have control over the amount of data on the page, which becomes overwhelming.
On its mobile version, Twitter even adds a “torn paper” marker, indicating to the user where to resume reading. This subtle and simple solution enables the user to scroll up and down the list, while having a recognizable point to return to. Psychologically, that marker reassures the reader by dividing read and unread content. Such markers give the user a sense of control and a better perception of the content’s depth and how far they’ve gotten into it.
Try a Hybrid Approach
A hybrid of infinite scrolling and pagination is also a good option in many cases. With this solution, you would show a “load more” button at the end of a preloaded list, which, when clicked, loads another batch of items onto the list. The same behavior that infinite scroll does automatically, this button does on demand. The interface gains some of the advantages of infinite scrolling, without some of its drawbacks.
Because infinite scrolling requires the website to fetch so much content, the hybrid solution is used at times to control the data load. In Facebook’s news feed and Google’s image search, the infinite scrolling is automatic at first but becomes on-demand once a certain number of items have loaded. This maintains the interface while limiting the load on the server.
Five Issues to Avoid to Achieve a Strong Infinite Scrolling Experience:
– When implementing infinite scrolling, identify what data is exclusive to your website and elevate it to the top of the page, and filter less relevant information.
– Users want to feel in control. Add a smart progress indicator, a fixed menu, or a map.
– Users often look for landmarks when scrolling. When scrolling through long lists, users expect to be able to easily distinguish between new and viewed data.
– Users often expect a footer. If footer-type information is functional to the interface, then it should appear at the bottom of the page. A fixed footer is usually the way to go with infinite scrolling.
– An infinite list is still a list. Infinite scrolling still needs to meet common interface standards. Whether users take their eyes off the screen for a moment or click a link and then click “Back,” they expect to return to the exact point where they left off.
Designers should weigh the pros and cons of infinite scrolling before selecting this option over pagination. The choice depends on the type of product and the format of how you want to deliver content.