November 5, 2013

Why you should avoid or use infinite scrolling

If you have used Twitter, then you know what infinite scrolling is. When you look through your stream of tweets, new tweets will load automatically as you scroll down on your screen. More and more websites have begun to use infinite scrolling, the questions is if that's really a good thing? Large websites like Reddit, Amazon, and Google are not using infinite scrolling because infinite scrolling has several drawbacks.

You should use infinite scrolling!
  • It's faster and smoother, especially if you are using an iPad or smartphone. If you have pagination, you have to search for the "page 2" button, aim at it with you fat finger, and then look at the top of the page again as you scroll down to page 2's main content.
  • Old content seems more important. Research has shown that few users click on the "page 2" button because that content seems less relevant. For example, 94 percent are satisfied with the first 10 results at Google. If you have infinite scrolling, you will "fool" your users to look at more pages.

No, avoid infinite scrolling!
  • Probably one of the reasons to why Reddit and Google have avoided infinite scrolling is because they have ads on the top of their pages. These ads will be seen more often if the user has to click on the "page 2" button. But if you have ads in the stream, like Twitter have, the ads will be seen as often if you have infinite scrolling.
  • The problem with infinite scrolling is that it's impossible to reload the page if something happens. When I've searched through tweets, Twitter's database if often slow and I've often encountered an error message saying Twitter can't load more tweets. To load more tweets, I've to reload the page and begin scrolling from the top again.
  • You don't know how much content is available (this might be fixed if you add somewhere how much content is available).
  • Users see fewer items in the search results. In an experiment, users who used infinite scrolling saw 40 items, while users who didn't use infinite scrolling saw 80 items. In the same experiment, users who used infinite scrolling also clicked on fewer results and they also "liked" fewer items. In an e-store, the users who used infinite scrolling bought fewer items from the search results.   

Update! Here's a great example of how Google made a combination of infinite scrolling and pagination:

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