Infinite Scrolling: When to Use It, When to Avoid It
Infinite scrolling is a listing-page design approach which loads content continuously as the user scrolls down. It eliminates the need for pagination — breaking content up into multiple pages. Adidas.com: For its listing pages, Adidas uses pagination to display its selection of products to its users. Nike.com: In comparison to its competitor Adidas, Nike is using infinite scroll to display its products on its listing pages. Since its invention in 2006, infinite scrolling experienced a steep growth in popularity. Today, it is mostly used on websites and apps with a flat structure, where content streams constantly and is equally relevant to the user — for example, social-media sites (e.g., TikTok, Instagram, Twitter) but also news or ecommerce websites (e.g., Apple News, Nike.com). What are the benefits and limitations of infinite scrolling? Since its invention, some variations to classic infinite scrolling (as described above) have been developed. One variant requires the user to explicitly press a Load More or See More button to see more content added to the bottom of a page. Another variant breaks down the infinite scroll into pages that serve as valuable landmarks for orientation and enable users to quickly navigate the content, as they can jump from one page to the next one. Benefits of Classic Infinite Scrolling Reducing interruptions. Arguably, the biggest advantage of infinite scrolling over pagination is that it reduces interruptions for the user. A study published in the Information Systems Journal found that even short interruptions (such as clicking a Next button to go to another page for more content) can trigger users on a social ecommerce platform to change their task. While the effect of interruptions may vary depending on the type of user activity (e.g., it may be less drastic if users search for a specific item or piece of information), minimizing interruptions is important for social-media, entertainment, and news sites because it helps to create a seamless experience and encourages users to stay engaged. Lowering interaction cost. If the page loads new items continuously and quickly, without users having to press a button and wait for a new page to load, the interaction cost is diminished. Moreover, if the users want to navigate back to items that they have seen already, they do not have to press the Back button and wait for a previous page to load — they can simply scroll up. Well-suited for mobile devices. The increased popularity of infinite scroll was related to the steep rise of mobile devices. Because mobile viewports are small, users are already engaging in extensive scrolling (if they have something to scroll for), keeping their finger close to the screen and ready to swipe down. Usability Issues Caused by Infinite Scrolling Despite the benefits discussed above, infinite scrolling does have several drawbacks, which can impair the user experience: Difficulty refinding content Illusion of completeness Inability to access the end of the page Accessibility problems Increased page load Poor SEO performance Difficulty Refinding Content Infinite scrolling results in a lack of landmarks to help users orient themselves. With pagination, users may remember the page that an item was on and that an item was close to the top of the page or towards the middle, but in an infinite list of items, it is hard to remember the location of any specific item and return to it. » Read More
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