Infinite scrolling websites: hated by many, liked by few
I tend to rant a lot about web technologies that I despise, particularly if they waste my time or cause me to have to go out of my way just to use a website. Among them are these:
- scroll modifications
- content lockers
- and more
One of these web development trends that has recently come across my desk are “infinite scrolling” websites. They just scroll, and scroll and scroll.
For the purpose of this post, I don’t really “count” websites such as Tumblr, Facebook, or Twitter in this category. Social networks are one example of infinite scrolling that generally does not bother people, and has become socially acceptable.
We need boundaries
In an infinite scrolling website, there is a beginning but no end. You can scroll and scroll, and you will never see a footer. I don’t like this, I prefer to see a footer at the bottom of every website.
Also do not, I repeat do not overlook a website footer as an internet marketer. The footer of a website is like the shoes of a person, it ties the whole outfit (or website) together. Footers are awesome because it gives you a chance to tell people where to go when they reach the bottom of the page.
The problem with infinite scrolling websites is you never reach the bottom.
There is a time and place for everything
I’m a reasonable person. I don’t hate this technology completely, I just don’t think it should be used on every type of website, particularly websites with complex navigational structures.
Websites such as Facebook, Tumblr, and Twitter are great examples of infinite scrolling websites that don’t anger people, in general. One reason why it works so well is because there truly is almost an infinite amount of information, and there really is no “bottom” of the page.
Infinite scrolling in eCommerce
If you are considering using infinite scrolling for your eCommerce store, please think again. Time and time again it has been shown that eCommerce users prefer pagination, and are generally used to a certain usability format.
One huge example of a massive fail of infinite scrolling in eCommerce is Etsy. In 2013 Etsy came out with the fact that this was a failed experiment and ultimately showed a negative impact on user engagement.
Personally, don’t want an endless list of products. I want to sort. I want a certain number (that I can choose) of products per page. I’d like to know when the end of the page is going to be. Sometimes I want 8 products per page, other times I want 256. What I don’t want is a big question mark.
Deceptive , annoying, and confusing
Some folks say I might be reaching here with this one, but infinite scrolling websites really come across as deceptive in some ways.
From an advertising perspective, you are much more likely to generate page views (I didn’t say quality page views) due to users accidentally scrolling. To me this is a deceptive tactic and really doesn’t help anyone.
There are many annoying aspects of infinite scroll websites as well. Trying to extract the permalink for a given URL can be very tricky. If you scroll down too far, you might grab the permalink for the “next” article instead of the one you wanted to. Want to use the back button? If you are on an infinite scrolling website you better pay attention to where you are, otherwise “back” could mean a number of different things.
Infinite scrolling websites can also be confusing. I am a big fan of using the “Page Down” key on my keyboard within my desktop browser. For those of you unfamiliar with this key, it will basically scroll down at a very fast pace. I like to page down as soon as I visit a website so that I can get a quick read on how long the post is. When using page down on an infinite scroll website, it will immediately (sometimes not) load the next article, the next one after that, etc. This makes visually judging the overall length of the content very difficult, and confusing as well.
Not so great for SEO (?)
Some folks might argue with me on this one, but I generally don’t see infinite scrolling as something “good” for SEO. As with most things in SEO, no one really knows the answer. There have been a few conclusions that have been made over the past few years, most of the favor the side of “bad for SEO” although there will always be ney-sayers. Shaumik Daityari put together a great post on how to make an SEO friendly infinite scroll framework.
For me I say: “why take the chance.” It has been proven time and time again that people do not like infinite scrolling websites. As you may know if you’ve been following SEO trends over the last few years the most popular SEO metrics have really been based on that on the actions of people such as:
- bounce rate
- time on site
- visitor profile
- pages viewed per session
If you have a client pushing you to implement this technology on their website, stay strong. Show them the research. Let them know about all the failed experiments and negative case studies.
Again, there is a time and place for everything. I am not completely against this technology but for the most part it has no part on most b2b websites.