My issue with infinite scrolling web pages: the lack of a stopping point

May 24, 2013

Lately, 'infinite scrolling' web pages have become a popular design technique. These are pages that add additional content as you scroll down; keep scrolling and they'll keep adding, basically forever. While I can see the attraction of infinite scrolling, for me one of its big features is also my biggest issue with it.

One big appeal of infinite scrolling is that the user never has to interrupt their actions to go on. There is no scrolling to the bottom of one page, following a 'next page' link, and then starting again; instead, the same action of scrolling down is used both for moving through current content and 'navigating' to new content. And this is exactly the problem. When there is a distinct 'go to next' action to do, the bottom of a page (or wherever it is) is a natural place for me to consider whether I want to stop or go on. In an infinite scrolling page there is no such natural stopping point.

The alternate way to put this is that paged navigation creates natural chunks for me to consume content in, while infinite scrolling simply points a massive firehose at me. I find it easier to consume content in chunks; the paradoxical result of feeding me a navigation-free firehose is that I actually browse less of it for various reasons. Sometimes when there's no end it also feels like there's no real point.

(This thought was sparked by Flickr's recent redesign, which added infinite scrolling in a number of new places and thereby discouraged me from scrolling much in general.)

(I don't think that this just me being a curmudgeon about change, but I could be wrong. And I'm handwaving away many possible implementation issues and concerns with infinite scrolling. People who want to can find lots of other reasons to dislike it. I doubt it's going away for any number of reasons, including that I suspect it creates much easier navigation on touch interfaces.)

Written on 24 May 2013.
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Last modified: Fri May 24 02:01:43 2013
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