I am sure that you have seen infinite scrolling on some of the most popular websites on the Internet. Some of those websites include YouTube, Instagram, Pinterest. With the explosive growth of content over recent years, we have a lot more content to share than ever. With all of this content to show, there was a new way to display all of this content using one of the most common ways people interact with a page, scrolling. People naturally scroll pages vertically so that is why infinite scrolling is used so commonly today. I have some thoughts and opinions on infinite scrolling and what you should consider when using it.
What Is Infinite Scrolling?
Infinite scrolling capitalizes on people’s natural tendency to just swipe their phones up to see more content. Since we have become so used to vertical scrolling because of how we read content, infinite scrolling is a good choice to easily show content without really having to tell people how to access it.
What Do You Mean: How We Read Content
When we read books and magazines, we read a page at a time and our eyes move from the upper left corner to the lower end corner of the page when we are finished reading a page. Our eyes read the page vertically, reading the left page first before moving onto the next page on the right. We do not constantly shift between the left and right pages as we read. This would imply that we are reading the page horizontally because we are moving between the two pages. Physical print was never inherently designed to work this way and that is why we favor reading vertically over horizontally. This is why it makes sense that infinite scrolling would be so widely used.
Why Is Infinite Scrolling Popular?
Infinite scrolling became very popular due to its widespread use in social media. Since most content can be viewed without having to do anything but scroll, this made it easy to show lots of content without having to introduce any clicking elements like buttons on the page. Scrolling then became the action that showed more content and click became the action that is used to read or view the content. The clear role that each action plays makes it easier for users to know what each action performs.
Infinite Scrolling Is Good For Media Content
As mentioned earlier, social media is the ideal place to use infinite scrolling because there is just so much content to show that people can just keep scrolling and scrolling until they find what they are looking for. This is why media content like images and video are ideal for infinite scrolling. I will explain why in the upcoming sections.
Images are meant for infinite scrolling because each image can pretty much sell itself without the need for much text. Since there is so much content to go through with infinite scrolling, the picture will have to sell itself to users in order to be clicked on. With so much content to go through, it becomes a very competitive environment to have your image clicked over the sea of images present. So your image has to be more compelling and attractive than the others. This means that people will not take much time to read mountains of text because they can digest an image easier and faster than text that has to be read.
Similar to images, videos work well too for infinite scrolling content. The reason why is because each video is accompanied with an image thumbnail that represents what the video is about. Each video comes with some text but again, when you have a lot of videos to sift through on a page, visual representation is important. That is why a thumbnail image is so crucial in getting clicks.
Why Infinite Scrolling Works Well With Both Desktop and Mobile
I mentioned earlier why infinite scrolling works so well for desktop and mobile. This is unlike other similar ways JS is used to display content on a page.
Other ways to display content include:
I have written articles on these different topics. I give my opinions on thoughts on them and in what situations they are best used in.
How Does Infinite Scrolling Compare With Carousels?
One of the easiest distinctions that can be drawn between infinite scrolling and carousel is how the content is displayed. Infinite scrolling relies on vertical scrolling, which people naturally do instinctively. Carousels however, required horizontal scrolling or rather we call it swiping on mobile. Here is the problem with the carousel because it uses horizontal swiping. Advancing carousels can be either down with left and right buttons that require a click. Or, they can be advanced via a left and right swipe. Carousels support both clicking and scrolling actions.
Infinite scrolling is much simpler because you do not need up and down indication arrows to tell users to swipe up to reveal more content. This action has become so instinctive that you do not need to provide any visual cue to tell users how to access more content. Carousel needs to have left and right arrows to tell people how to interact with it. So this tells us that inherently, carousels need to guide users more than infinite scrolling.
Remember, since carousels advanced content from horizontal swiping, content will stay above the fold. So if your goal is to keep your most important content above the scroll, then carousels might be the way to go. It is not so simple to say which method of displaying content is better. Rather what I am doing is showing you the complexities of both and then you must decide which is better for you.
How Does Infinite Scrolling Compare With Accordions and Tabs?
I want to start with accordions and tabs because they are just versions of each other modified for responsive design. Accordions are used on mobile and convert to tabs on desktop. The interesting part is that accordions work just like infinite scrolling because both display content vertically. However, tabs are meant for wider screens and show more content via clicking on the tabs that run across the screen horizontally. We know that infinite scrolling works best vertically. So on the desktop, there is a difference between how tabs and infinite scrolling work.
How Does Infinite Scrolling Compare With Pop-Ups?
Pop-ups display stationary content that does not move on the page. This is very different from the other methods mentioned earlier. So there is not much to compare here because infinite scrolling displays content that “moves”. I do not mean moves as in animated but moves as in you move the page via scrolling or swiping and more content is displayed as a result.
Issues With Infinite Scrolling
Infinite scrolling has practical applications when used properly. I want to discuss a few issues with infinite scrolling and when it should not be used. No matter which method you use to display content, there will always be pros and cons to it.
Staying the Above the Fold
I know that I have talked about how important it is to display your most important above the fold. In order to implement infinite scrolling properly, you need to make sure that your best content that you want to rank shows up at the top of the page first before you start using infinite scrolling. Keep infinite scrolled content below the fold. You need to consider if the infinite scrolling content is being loaded either on page load or after page load via AJAX. This just really depends if you want the content inside the infinite scrolling to rank or not. A common theme on this blog is that if you want your content to scroll, show it on page load inside the HTML source and make it easy for search engines to read.
Indicating the End of the Page
If you overuse infinite scrolling, then it becomes difficult to know when the content stops. Typically, users just keep scrolling and scrolling until they find something that they like to click on. Do not place too much content inside an infinite scroll on a page. The reason why is because people might not find anything that they like until they scroll a million times. Users will not know when the page ends and they might give up looking. This is the natural consequence of infinite scrolling and why it is called what it is called. People do not want to scroll forever, they want to find what they are looking for. Some people might be able to scroll for a certain amount of times, but not forever.
Looking for Something? Casual Infinite Scrolling Versus Targeted Search
If you have that much content to comb through, then you might either need another page with the content categorized for organization. Or, you can tell users to search for what they are looking for. The fun part of infinite scrolling is that it is more casual instead of targeted with a search. So people who are not looking for anything specific might be willing to scroll more until they find something. If people know what they want, then a search might be preferred.
The Pagination Problem
I mentioned social media being the ideal place for social media because it was meant for media content like images and videos. However, if you need to show a lot of content somewhere else like in a content management system, then traditional pagination is preferred. The main reason is because you need to page specifically for different pieces of content and they cannot just be thrown all on a single page. Infinite scrolling suffers from a lack of not having an actual page or URL represent a certain section of it. What is page two or five of infinite scrolling? What if you wanted to show that section of content to someone. You cannot do it because there is no actual page that corresponds with that section of the infinite scroll. With pagination, you pass the current page number in the URL and can send a link to people showing page two of content.
Getting Infinite Scrolling Content Noticed
Getting that amount of content inside an infinite scroll can be tricky to get traffic for if you are going for search engines. This really depends on your implementation. You should consider other methods like backlinking to help assist in your SEO efforts.
Backlinking will work if you just post on your social media accounts.This is the easiest way since your infinite scrolling might load its content post page load via AJAX. If that is the case you will have to look for alternative ways to get your content to rank since thin content might be an issue here. Yes, you can load all of your content on page load, but be careful that you do not add so much content that it slows your page down. Slow loading pages are not good for SEO.
I have already discussed how keeping your best content above the fold for what you want to rank for is important for SEO efforts with an infinite scroll. Infinite scrolling should be reserved for any miscellaneous content below the fold that is there for users to peruse through once the main content has been consumed,
Infinite scrolling has become very popular because of how simple it is to just keep scrolling for more and more content. This simplicity compared to other methods of displaying content works well for social media. How we ready physical print media like books and magazines make infinite scrolling very good to bombard users with tons of content.
There are many stark differences on when to choose an infinite scroll over pop-ups, carousels, tabs, and accordions. Understanding what each method offers is important to know which method is best for the page that you are building.
Some issues with infinite scrolling include placing infinite scrolling content below the fold, having users wonder how much scrolling is required to reach the end of the page, and the lack of pagination to target sections of an infinite scroll. No method is without its flaws, so understand how they all work.
Promoting your infinite scroll will depend on how it was implemented. The more content that shows in the HTML on page load, the better. This makes your content easier for search engines to find and read. Otherwise, you might need to look toward backlinks to get the word out.