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Jessica Bryant Posted by Jessica Bryant on February 09, 2015

Arguments Against Infinite Scrolling in Web Design - Are They Valid?

Arguments Against Infinite Scrolling in Web Design - Are They Valid?

Arguments Against Infinite Scrolling in Web Design - Are They Valid?

Infinite scrolling can be a feature or an annoyance depending on your implementation.

If there’s one element of web design that can drastically improve user experience, it’s infinite scrolling. Many, however, express a strong distaste for the feature. Although we can all agree that infinite scrolling doesn’t make sense in every setting, a web developer could easily fix the limitations naysayers tend to obsess over. Because of that, we thought it was time to examine the arguments for and against infinite scrolling as a website design feature to help you decide for yourself if it’s a good design feature for your website.

How Infinite Scrolling Works

Infinite scrolling works by preloading additional content when you scroll down near the end of a page. It’s the reason you can’t tear yourself away from Facebook, Twitter and Pinterest. But with pagination, every time a user clicks a navigation button, the page refreshes and downloads another full set of metadata and code to present the new content. Infinite scrolling, however, lets you retain the existing data framework and update only the content. Fore smart phones and tablets, this data savings is a godsend. And, because infinite scroll keeps visitors on the page longer, it becomes very appealing to your search engine marketing efforts. At the same time, some of those lingering users seem to be stuck in a navigational fog against their will.

Love It or Hate It

Those who don’t like infinite scrolling complain about being overwhelmed by the barrage of data. Some say they feel somehow unfulfilled when they the feature stops them from seeing just how many pages there are on a forum post. And then, if they click a link by mistake, the back button returns them to the top of the thread, forcing them to scroll, scroll and scroll again, often failing to find their spot on the page. But these arguments are really throwing the baby out with the bathwater.

Admittedly, unsophisticated implementations of infinite scroll, can leave users feelings lost in a sea of data with no idea how to navigate back to where they want to go. But implementations such as the one in Rails can fix that problem by keeping pagination intact. Users gain the opportunity to scroll, but feel less lost because the pagination is there as a guide. It also makes it easy for browsers to bring users back to where they left off if they navigate to another tab momentarily. You could even implement a toggle on/off feature for infinite scroll and let users decide which type of navigation they want.

Implications for eCommerce

The only true downside to infinite scrolling is its effect on some eCommerce site designs, such as Etsy. The site tried infinite scrolling, but rejected it when users began to abandon their usual curious hunt and peck clicking behaviors in favor of browsing catalog images with infinite scroll. As a result, individual items in the market received less attention -- certainly not a desirable user behavior on an eCommerce site.

So, at this point, offering usability options seems like a smart choice, because users are sharply divided on infinite scroll. They love it or they hate it. And when it comes to product pages, you could try implementing a toggle, running some tests with it and then decide if it causes problems for you.

Ask efelle for help with your next web design project

The creative team at efelle includes coders, artists, writers and marketing experts, all focused on the goal of creating a website design that helps you grow your business. Call us at 206.384.4909 or use our online contact form to arrange for a free web design consultation.