Infinite scrolling is one of the cooler user experiences brought to life by Pinterest – since its introduction, many others have followed suit with incorporating infinite scrolling on their web sites and applications. For certain types of content and applications, this is the best overhaul that has happened to the user experience in a long time. Pagination has been a deterrent to viewing a large amount of content. For user generated content that grows at a fast pace, taking that deterrent out of the equation has definitely helped!
There really hasn’t been an equivalent to pagination on mobile, minus the dull experience of clicking through tiny page numbers on a small screen browser. Loading content in response to scrolling is so much smoother.
Given the popularity of this feature, it is now making an appearance in all kinds of applications. Facebook. Twitter. Tumblr. Pulse. The problem is that loading content infinitely is not quite suitable for all types of content. Aside from all the discussions around SEO and finding the equivalent of click value in a scroll experience, there is also the question of exactly what kind of user experience one is targeting with the infinite scroll.
For leisurely content, that is quite fitting. It gives the user a perception of vast amounts of interesting content and keeps the engagement of the user. On the other hand, for some other types of content, it is exhausting to the user to see that there is an endless amount of content they need to get through. Search content has thus far not become a target for infinite scrolling, appropriately so. I believe news content should fall under that category as well. The recent Pulse update that delivers endless content leaves me exhausted, with the feeling that I’m never caught up with news! If users are interested in old news, they will actively seek it. One of the issues with old news often is also that updates may have been published later – if the users have already consumed the latest content, the old news becomes somewhat even confusing for the user. History linked from recent news is useful, but related and outdated articles showing up in the news stream is distracting.
Following best practices for designing the infinite scroll experience is one part of it. But, thinking through the type of content and whether the experience is fitting for it needs to be a necessary pre-step before adopting it.