Infinite Scrolling: Is It Good or Bad?


#1

I am suggesting to discuss all the pros and cons of infinite scrolling. When do you use it and when do not?


#2

From a users perspective, I find it helpful very occasionally and infuriating most of the time. There is nothing more annoying than trying to click a footer link only to have it snatched away at the last second… over and over again. Having said that, I find it really useful in forums when I want to scan through numerous pages of posts.


#3

Good question Armen, and I’ll be interested to hear other people’s answers.

In my book, infinite scrolling is only a wise choice when the user doesn’t care how many items there are. The perfect example of this is Twitter, where the average user probably doesn’t care how many tweets there are – they will scroll downwards for as long as they want to, and then they’ll do something else. The more hardcore Twitter user probably has a different application (like TweetBot) to read tweets, so they can catch up on Twitter in a different and more methodical way.

I’ve worked with some companies and colleagues in the past few years who have insisted on using infinite scroll on websites, even though it makes it really hard for the user to have a sense of where they are in the product listing, and how many more products there are, and they also can’t bookmark a “page” of products and come back to that page later, to continue browsing – they have to start at the top again.

When I worked with Country Road on their new site, there was a requirement to have infinite scroll on their products. I wouldn’t have recommended this, but it was a requirement. As you can see from this page, I recommended that they add in a fixed navigation to infinite scroll pages that shows users where they are in the product listing (e.g. 1-48 of 88), and gives them a way to jump to the top of the page. I didn’t recommend a button to jump to the bottom of the page, because in any one category, there wouldn’t be a long enough page that would prevent the user from getting to the footer easily.


#4

We published a post about this topic a while back on UX Mastery. The biggest gripe I have is when the footer (with links and important contact information) appears for a brief moment, then gets pushed down before you have any time to click anything. This feels like an unforgivable design decision to make. I love most of the stuff that the guys at 37signals, err, Basecamp put out, but I’m amazed that [URL=“http://sortfolio.com/listings”]they make this mistake on their Sortfolio website.


#5

That drives me nuts as well.

I’m currently migrating another community that I work for to the Discourse platform, which has infinite scrolling. There is some community backlash about it, but in a forum I think it works quite well, for similar reasons that Fox states regarding Twitter. I also like the way that in Discourse the URL is changed as you scroll up and down through a page, so you can get a persistent link from the address bar to bookmark.


#6

Good topic!

I work with a site that has 31,000,000 items on it (!) - so this is a discussion that comes up quite a bit. The footer issue is of course a problem, you could do something like Google Image Search, which is a bit of a hybrid - you have an endless scroll for a while, and then a “Load more” option - but this of course doesn’t fix things if your footer contains information that people would want to get at.

Personally, I look at this as a ‘browse’ or ‘search’ issue. If this is a browse website (eg Twitter), where you have a fast flowing stream of information, then to page between results would add extra burden, and I’d hazard a guess that Twitter would not be where it is today if it had pagination…

However, if you are searching for an item, then pagination is a clear indicator of where things are. If I find something on page 20 of the search results, then I could remember that as I continue my search.

Etsy removed it: http://danwin.com/2013/01/infinite-scroll-fail-etsy/


#7

One other thing that I find annoying is when you click through an item after a couple of scrolls, then hit the back button only to find yourself at the beginning of the page again. Recomposing the previous state by hitting the back button (one thing I’m sure most web users do) is this case very difficult, such that you have to find the item you were at once again and continue from there.


#8

The issue with the footer already mentioned drives me up the wall.

The issue with back-buttons and losing your place even more so, unless you can get your user back to precisely the point they were at before getting redirected. Especially with the new Twitter design, if I’m scrolling through someone’s feed, find a post I like or see a conversation I want to check, and forget to manually open in a new tab, it goes to a different page; If I hit the back button, I’ve lost my place and have to “start over”. Back button becomes useless.

Infinite scroll needs to burn.


#9

The context matters…
In a dynamic website like facebook, where the content is based on time, infinite scroll can be a good idea. If we go to another page and back later, we’ll probably have something new there. The feeling is not about “OH NO! I have to scroll everything again…”.
In a static website - or almost static - the same fact will be unpleasant. Split the content with numbers can be more organized and pleasant.


#10

Great discussion,
actually we had this decision to make on our project as well and at the end we decided against.
I think the following article should be placed in this discussion as it influenced our decision when it was time to do so;

I think it´s quite well reseched and analyzed and like lot´s of Nielsen articles worth a read


#11

I despise infinite scrolling. The guys I work with refer to it as a ‘toilet roll’.


#12

I am not a big fan of infinite scroll but I see it’s value in products like Pinterest, Twitter, and Facebook. But the reality is that very few of us are dealing with the level of content and data that they are dealing with. So as a rule of thumb, I almost never encourage it.