There are few things in the world that I hate more than infinite scroll. That’s probably an exaggeration. There are a lot of things in the world of UI/UX that absolutely drive me up the wall. Today’s target though is infinite scroll.
Why do I hate it?
I hate it because it’s a clever ploy to keep a viewer on a page longer.
But isn’t that goal of good web design? To keep your viewers on your page longer? It actually isn’t, that’s the goal of marketing, which is often in conflict with good design. In my experience, marketing’s ultimate aim is to extract as much revenue from every potential customer. The goal of good web design, on the other hand, is to provide the user exactly what they are looking for as quickly as possible in a format that is easy accessible and understandable. My goal as a web developer is to make you feel good and make your life easier. Infinite scroll does not make me feel good, it makes me feel incomplete and wastes my time.
Infinite scroll says “Don’t go yet! Look! I have more to offer!” It’s the clingy girlfriend that never is satisfied with the attention you give and will never let you be with your friends.
I’m sure that others would argue that infinite scroll is a great way to keep offering good content to your viewers, but I don’t see this being possible since additional content can only be “related” to the original point of interest for so long. And that’s the best case scenario. More likely, the additional content is simply random (often click-bait) or an archival of previous content that is in no way related to or triggered by the user or their interests.
There are a few exceptions to the rule in the realm of social media in which infinite scroll takes a large part in “the feed” — a core function of the platform. I can only give a partial pass to such websites because the content in your feed is arguably content you want to see (a discussion for another day). Also, there is an “endpoint” as you can actually reach the last piece of content you saw last time. I will say, however, that when you first sign up for these services they immediately feed you an infinite amount of content from Time Magazine, ESPN, or other trending news sources until your feed begins to be populated by sources you’ve actually selected.
The fact of the matter is: with exception to a few social media platforms I’ve never encountered true infinite scroll that improved my experience or provided me useful content. Instead, as soon as I discover that I’m being pulled into an infinite scroll wormhole, I ragequit and mentally “blacklist” said website.
The Silver Lining
There is one merit to infinite scroll that I find useful, and that is: lazy load.
I’m sure there are other terms for it, but it is the ability of a website to delay loading content until the user begins to approach visibility of said content, at which point AJAX loads it onto the page. I think this is a great feature that boosts the speed of a website by only loading necessary content when needed, ultimately improving the user experience. This sort of function needs to exist in a defined page with a finite length, however.
I realize that it probably sounds a bit odd for a web developer to be in opposition to a trending web interface function that keeps more people glued to the Internet, but I think by now you’ve begun to understand that I am not trying to get you “hooked” on my product. Even as a web developer I don’t think we should facilitate “web addiction”. The Internet should be an asset to our lives and a vehicle to better information faster, not a distraction and a flood of useless information to last you until world’s end. The ever expanding universe of the Internet should be organized by the clear-minded with finite parameters to guide its explorers to the content they actually want.