There are over 1.5 billion websites online right now. With so much competition for online attention, you have to make sure your website is putting it’s best foot forward. An infinite scroll website is a great way to drive user engagement and keep people on-page, but it comes with some downsides as well.
Here’s everything you need to know about infinite scrolling: what it is, how it works, and what pros and cons it has.
What Is an Infinite Scroll Website?
Infinite scrolling is a popular design technique in which content continues to populate at the bottom of the window as a user scrolls down a page. The result is an “infinite” stream of content that populates with action on the user’s part.
A site with infinite scrolling doesn’t have a distinct end point. So long as the user keeps scrolling, the content will continue to populate on the page.
Some common examples of infinite scrolling include social media sites like Twitter, Facebook, and Pinterest. Each of these sites uses infinite scrolling on their feed pages, so the site essentially has no end.
How Do They Work?
AJAX essentially lets a web page send and receive data from a server asynchronously, without requiring the page to reload. Infinite scrolling websites use AJAX to populate the content at the bottom of the page as a user scrolls.
Now you know what infinite scrolling is, let’s dive into the pros and cons.
Pro: Keep Users On-Page
Infinite scrolling is a great tool for sites that want to keep users on-page. Because there’s no distinct end to the content, users are more likely to continue scrolling.
Google loves sites that keep users engaged. The longer they spend on your pages, the better your SEO. Infinite scroll is a great way to leverage user behaviour to keep users on-page and engaged with your content.
Con: Footer Information Is Lost
Footers are incredibly important user experience tools. We’ve essentially trained ourselves to expect vital bits of information at the footer of a page. Content like contact information, privacy notices, and more find its home in footers.
Infinite scroll essentially kills the footer. Because there’s no “end” to the content, there’s no designated area for the footer to live.
Some sites have gotten over this limitation with sticky footers. Others have moved the information to a sidebar. Whatever technique you choose, you have to be mindful of the usefulness of footer information when designing an infinite scroll site.
Pro: Ideal for Mobile Devices
The scroll debate has raged on for many years on desktop but the same can’t be said of mobile devices. It’s universally agreed that mobile is made for scrolling. This makes infinite scroll websites ideal for use on mobile devices.
Furthermore, infinite scrolling is also ideal for touch use. Infinite scrolling pages are typically designed with distinct boxes of content that populate as the user scrolls. Because each box presents as a distinct element, they’re naturally “tappable”.
Con: Navigation Can Get Confusing
For infinite scrolling websites, navigation is a tricky issue. If you have only one page with neverending content, how do you navigate, filter, or share specific content?
Social media has gotten around this with permalinks – specific links that belong to individual posts. Other sites implement filters or the ability to pin specific pages. Whatever technique you choose, you have to ensure you’re not sacrificing the user’s ability to navigate your page for the benefits of infinite scroll.
Pro: Ideal for Visual Websites
Infinite scrolling is made for visuals. Think of sites like Pinterest and Instagram that are able to display an unlimited number of images, laid out in an engaging and interesting way.
If your website is visual-heavy, then infinite scrolling can be a boon to your content. Portfolio websites, design websites, or content aggregation are some common examples of the positive application of infinite scrolling.
Con: Analytics Is Trickier
Analytics can make or break a website. It allows you to track where your viewers are coming from, who they are, what they click on, and how long they spend on your pages. All this information is crucial when measuring the effectiveness of your content and campaigns.
Infinite scrolling makes analytics tricky because your users are only ever on one page. Furthermore, because new content will populate on-scroll, you’re unable to properly measure the effectiveness of your content unless a user clicks or otherwise interacts with it.
Pro: Browsing Is Easier
Scrolling is one of the most innate user behaviours there is. Infinite scrolling, which makes use of this easy behaviour, is one of the simplest ways to browse a website.
With infinite scrolling, you don’t have to worry about users abandoning your website because they don’t understand how it works.
Con: Load Time Concerns
Infinite scrolling must be approached with caution (and a web developer who knows what they’re doing). Because page content is loaded through AJAX, it’s more susceptible to slow load time. Some infinite scroll pages can even crash.
To avoid this issue, invest in a web developer who knows their stuff. They should prioritise page load speed and be able to ensure your content is properly optimised.
Infinite Scrolling Has Pros and Cons
Building an infinite scroll website comes with pros and cons. They’re a boon for user engagement and ideal for mobile devices but come with hurdles like trickier analytics and load time concerns.
At the end of the day, you have to build the site that best suits the content you want to deliver. If you’re building a content aggregation site, infinite scrolling is well suited. If you prefer a structure that’s easily navigated then infinite scrolling might not be for you.
Looking to implement infinite scrolling on your website? Get in touch today and see how we can help you upgrade your site.