Scrolling to an infinite extent always promises an enhanced viewing experience to the users. But it should always be remembered that good things usually accompany the bad ones. So it is very important to understand both weaknesses & strengths in order to make the best use of it for improving your interface.
The nature of a human being is such that it always looks for ease of navigation in case of structure or hierarchy. Infinite scrolling proves to be disadvantageous in this regards as users can feel disoriented while scrolling to an endless extent.
For smaller screens, especially in the case of a mobile phone, it is very difficult to accommodate website components within a single web page. Hence, infinite scrolling comes to play where items are arranged in a vertical fashion so that users can scroll down till the end to view all of them. The fundamental lying behind this is, loading of more content as the user scrolls down for exploring content. In this way users can browse the vast ocean of data without actually waiting for different pages to load. Herein an experience is obtained which is truly responsive in nature. For dynamic websites, whose content is updated every second, infinite scrolling acts as a boon. With data getting continuously updated, users can have access to recent as well as historical data through infinite scrolling. Social networking sites such as Facebook & Twitter are classic examples of this.
With so much information to browse, it becomes really difficult for the users to focus on the information they are actually looking for. A never ending chain of information may restrain users from reaching their goals. Also if we look at the Google Analytics study, out of 100%, only 6 % of the users go to the second search results page of Google while remaining 94% get satisfied in exploring the results on the first page itself.
Infinite scrolling not really meant for Google!
Google already has infinite scrolling in place for its image search results. But it has still to introduce it in the general search results page. By doing so, users will no longer be switching to other pages for getting access to more results. All results will be displayed on one single page which can be seen by scrolling down. Browsing will become much easier in this case but a big question will still arise: after how many results will the scrolling actually stop? The current format of Google Search with 10 results being displayed on one page seems to be much more ideal looking at the present conditions. This is because, at present users actually can make out when to stop searching or after how many results irrelevant websites will be displayed. Knowing an end point helps the users to have good control over their search activity. Moreover, this also helps them to make a smart decision related to their information find. With infinite scrolling, users will keep on looking and looking at the search results without reaching anywhere.
Adverse effects of infinite scrolling
Infinite scrolling can have some real bad effects when the actual goal of the users is not being reached.
While looking for a perfect match, users keep on looking at more & more results most of which are irrelevant. This temptation leads to decrease in productivity due to the waste of time & energy.
With no appropriate results being shown to the users, after a certain point users get exhausted & discouraged to move further.
One of the biggest problems that lie in infinite scrolling is whenever a result is searched by clicking on it, the exact position of the scrolling is lost letting the users to scroll down again from the starting point. This leads to multiple times scrolling the same stuff again & again.
Sometimes relevant results lie between so many irrelevant ones but due to overwhelming data to explore in infinite scrolling, users might lose out on the actual data they are looking for.
An e-commerce site had implemented infinite scrolling in order to make a product or category browsing easier. But to the contrary, users were getting lost amidst a combination of irrelevant & relevant information making it highly difficult for them to compare products or make wise purchase decisions. Hence they left the site within a few clicks.
Sometimes important information lies in the footers. But because of infinite scrolling, users never get an opportunity to reach the footers making useful data inaccessible to them. Henceforth it is always better to either incorporate sticky footers or relocate the footer links to sidebars.
Social networking sites like Pinterest have implemented infinite scrolling which is justified as the site majorly deals with photo sharing activity. But this sometimes becomes problematic for Pinterest as users do not have exclusive access to relevant images. They have to go through all the images present on the web. So even though there is an easier & rapid image browsing experience present, users would prefer to see only the best of the lot which is at present a matter of concern.
Making optimum use
Infinite scrolling can be used in an optimal manner in the following ways:
- Twitter uses infinite scrolling in such a manner that with a growing list of tweets, users can click on one of them for a comfortable viewing, restraining the page from refreshing & maintaining the position of the scroll.
- Facebook & Google have opted for a hybrid scrolling for their news feed & image search respectively. In both the cases you will find a combination of pagination as well as infinite scrolling wherein infinite result search is there to a certain extent after which more pages are loaded on demand with a load more or a similar kind of button or tab in place.
- Sites like Lost World’s Fairs & Unfold have taken the concept of infinite scrolling to a completely new level by employing one page website in order to accommodate all the website data into a single long page which is scrollable. Such websites have sections organized over one another in a vertical fashion to facilitate a systematic viewing. experience. These websites do not actually employ an infinite scrolling but they do deliver a feel of it.
- Introducing parallax effect to infinite scrolling could be great fun. Just like Andrew McCarthy website, parallax effect lets different layers on the page to move at varying speeds so that when a user goes for infinite scrolling, it creates an illusion of depth generating a three dimensional effect. Parallax scrolling effect is not just limited to infinite scrolling, it can be shown in a more feasible manner with the help of service and product based website like Spinxdigital, Bagigia, Nike and many more.
Users always look forward to achieving their goals by expecting an end to their exploration. They should always reach a point of saturation by knowing the exact amount of relevant data & also the navigational ease to have a look at them. Infinite scrolling, as we saw above, should be implemented in such a manner that the scrolling looks endless, but in reality the list has a definite end.