You’ve seen infinite scrolling websites like Facebook and Pinterest. They look cool, they’re content-rich – but is that system right for your site?
Like any other content system, infinite scrolling has benefits and drawbacks.
Infinite scrolling was made for touchable mobile devices. It reacts in an intuitive way, automatically loading more content when the user gets to the bottom of their screen.
People will naturally keep on scrolling when more content is offered to them.
It’s great for image-rich sites, those which have high volumes of user generated content like Facebook, and it keeps people engaged.
Anyone who uses Facebook regularly will know that people who find content interesting tend to like or share it as a way of bookmarking it for later, rather than trying to scroll for it again. That increases engagement.
The main benefit of infinite scrolling to the user is fast and easy browsing. There’s no need to spend time clicking on page links or reloading pages.
For designers, it can be a wonderfully creative tool which displays visual content at its best.
The constant loading of more and more content can make users feel out of control. It’s like going on a walk somewhere new, and never knowing what’s coming next.
They never reach the footer, where they know they can find important information like privacy policies, terms and conditions, and contact details. This is a big problem for e-commerce sites, where users are looking for links to a shopping cart or their basket.
When people read something, they mentally make a note of where it is physically in a document. It’s been happening for thousands of years as we read books, and now website pages. That’s hard to do in an infinite scrolling site and people can feel disorientated.
If users need to go back a step and find something they were looking at a few minutes ago, the system tends to take them back to the top of the section of content rather than where they were. That can be frustrating and time-consuming as they have to search that block of content again.
People also can’t skip pages, which some will find frustrating.
Despite the fact people are more engaged and naturally keep on scrolling, they don’t necessarily click on anything. In fact, scrolling content is less likely to convert to a sale than paginated content.
So is there a happy medium?
You might want your designer to keep the scrolling content format, but to pin a navigation bar to it which is always visible.
You could also get them to incorporate ‘load more’ buttons instead of making the scrolling function truly infinite. That allows you to retain a footer.
Both items will give users more of a sense of control over what they’re viewing. Users can still navigate your site and decide if they’ve had enough content.
The decision to use infinite scrolling should be based on the purpose of your site. If you want to convert viewers into sales, or you have an e-commerce site, it’s probably not for you.
But if you have a content-rich blog or a portfolio of images, it’s definitely worth considering.