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Pros and Cons of Infinite Scrolling

September 3, 2015 | ,

To scroll or not to scroll? That is the question that many web designers and users are asking themselves nowadays. Somewhere in your web adventures you’ve probably encountered a website with infinite scrolling. Two popular ones that come to mind are Facebook and Twitter, where you can keep scrolling endlessly through your feed without turning a single page.

Infinite scrolling is perfect not only for real-time social media, but for many desktop and mobile experiences as well, especially when a website has lots of content that would make traditional navigation cumbersome. This feature facilitates creative storytelling and visuals, promotes app- or game-like interaction through animation and touch controls and entices users to spend more time on the site. By the same token, infinite scrolling can create its own difficulties. So whether you’re looking to build a website or hire an expert to do it for you, it would be beneficial to look at situations when infinite scrolling works and when it doesn’t.

Mobile Usage

In order for infinite scrolling to help your website generate leads and increase sales, it needs to suit the needs of your target audience. While mobile device usage has skyrocketed in recent years, that doesn’t mean your clients will actually view your website frequently on their devices. Do some market research beforehand and find out the most common devices your audience are using for web activities. Then you can make a more informed decision about whether to incorporate infinite scrolling into your mobile site.

Content

Also consider the type of content you want to put on the site and what your goals are for the site after launch. If you’re going to have a lot of information available, especially daily generated content, infinite scrolling can make browsing more efficient. For instance, users can scroll quickly through a blog reel, image gallery or social media feed, as well as read a long blog post or a list of upcoming events, all without the interruption of clicking through pages. In addition, you might want to have this feature on your homepage or landing page, so that visitors can view everything about your business at a glance, while still including a navigation menu with links to separate pages or different locations on the main scroll.

Infinite scrolling definitely enhances visual content. If you have a long page, you can load one section at a time as the user scrolls down, perhaps adding some animation to make each element appear. Alternately, you can add parallax scrolling, where the foreground slides over a static background so that the user can view more content in a shorter page. Posters and infographics also do well with infinite scrolling.

Navigation

The term “infinite scrolling” is a bit of a misnomer, because you certainly don’t want your users to feel that your homepage will never end. How much time do we waste on social media sites, scrolling through posts ad nauseam? Do you want your visitors to feel that they’ve wasted time on your website? Web users like to have control over the experience and feel that they are being productive. That’s why the overwhelming majority of Google users don’t search past the first 10 results. Isn’t that true in other search contexts? You know the most relevant results will be in to the top 10 or 20, so why look further?

The same is true of business websites. People who visit your site will spend more time there if they enjoy the experience, but also if the content is broken up into manageable pieces. For example, it’s important to provide a navigation menu or at least navigation controls on an infinite scrolling site. If you have a menu, it should be “sticky,” that is, fixed either at top or the bottom so that no matter how far they scroll, users can find their way back. (You’re actually viewing a “sticky” menu right now that stays at the top of the page as you scroll through this blog post). Navigation arrows at each section of the scroll can also be helpful in this regard. When users navigate away from the scroll, they should be able to return to a specific place in the scroll.

In an infinite scroll, content should be relevant and, ironically, finite. Long scroll tempts users to keep going and, if it’s segmented, makes them believe that the end is near, when in fact it is not. This can lead to frustration and exhaustion, particularly if the user gets lost or can’t find a traditional footer at the bottom of the page with your contact information. So if you employ infinite scrolling on your blog or image gallery, make sure you include a “sticky” footer with important details and navigation links.

Online Stores

One scenario where you have to be careful with infinite scrolling is eCommerce. As we mentioned, users need to have a sense of control and feel that they are productively browsing the most relevant items. In other words, don’t let your online shop scroll on forever. Try including an on-demand “Load More” button that appears after a certain number of products. This can also be used with blog posts, images and other content. Another method is a scroll-progress indicator, which lets the user know how far they’ve come. For products or posts, it wouldn’t hurt to classify them in lists of “Most Relevant” or “Latest.” And in the case of an online shop, customers need to be able to quickly view their shopping cart and place an order.

SEO

Lastly, there is the SEO aspect. Most developers use JavaScript to implement infinite scrolling, but search engines such as Google have a limited ability to crawl JavaScript. And if your content is not being “crawled,” you won’t get found online. Fortunately, there are ways around this, so when you’re discussing a project with a developer, make sure they understand the problem and how to fix it.

There’s a great deal to think about when you’re deciding whether to use infinite scrolling on your site. At SGD we usually employ a hybrid solution of parallax, long scroll, sticky navigation and some pagination. Here are some examples of infinite scrolling sites that we’ve built for hospitality venues:

The Botanist Kirribilli

botanist-desktop

Bondi Hardware

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SoCal Sydney

placeit

The Butler Sydney

butler-laptop

If you think infinite scrolling would work well on your website, please get in touch with us for a free, no-obligation assessment!

Author
James Fulton

A multimedia and design professional with a healthy obsession for all things web. James’ passion for web design sees him stretching his creative imagination to eternal limits and forever sees him thinking outside the box, even if it is not work related. James’ ideas are original and innovative, and implementing them into the world of the web to create aesthetically enjoyable websites is what he does best.

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